Architectural Gems of Sir Michael Hopkins

Sir Michael Hopkins © Hopkins Architects

Michael Hopkins, a pioneer of in the field of material exploration, is a retired architect with more than a few notable feathers in his cap. In the late 1970s, Hopkins set up a firm with his wife, Patricia Hopkins, that largely focused on the exploitation of material usage. This included a plethora of developments like construction using lightweight materials, use of modern engineering techniques to give a new face to traditional materials, etc. With techniques that run decades ahead of their time, Michael Hopkins’ works flawlessly establish connections between the structures and their surroundings without a single compromise on the underlying purpose of the facility. Sustainability remains to be a continual feature that runs deep in the veins of every Hopkins design.

“Design is nothing but a humble understanding of materials, a natural instinct for solutions and respect for nature.” – Ar. B.V. Doshi

1. Lee Valley VeloPark (London)

The Olympic Velodrome Centre is one of the most popular examples of the efficiency and capability displayed by Hopkins’ firm. Drawing strong inspiration from the sport itself, the roof reflects the geometry of a cycling track while the entire structure stands with being just as lightweight and efficient as a cycle. The structure itself is steel-framed with timber cladding. Conforming to the atmosphere of the Olympic Park, Hopkins managed to keep the design as open and connected with its surroundings as possible. This helped ensure a massive reduction in the consumption of artificial light and ventilation.

2. Schlumberger Cambridge Research Centre

Devising a relationship between form and function happens to be Hopkins’ forte, which is wholly visible in the design and outcome of the Schlumberger Cambridge Research Centre. Methods used to keep the Teflon-coated glass fabric roof upright give the entire structure a height that paves way for practical working underneath. Making the most out of the materials used, this fabric allows the drawing in of natural light, which simultaneously reduces the requirement for man-made resources. This also helps develop a smooth connection with the outdoors. For a structure completed in the 80s, a pioneered advancement in material construction strikes out clearly.

3. Portcullis House

Located in Central London, Portcullis House embodies the melange between the historic Parliamentary estate and its contemporary counterparts. Infusing a simple rectangular block with the aesthetics and practicality that Portcullis House possesses, Hopkins has done complete justice to his philosophy of material exploration and experimentation. Its frameless glass skin, supported by an oak and stainless steel ‘diagrid’ helps impart the entire area with an openness that makes it a preferred zone for confabs amongst the officials working in the Parliament.

4. Mound Stand (Lord’s Cricket Ground)

Another first that was introduced by Hopkins happens to be tensile roofing for Stadium stands. The legendary Lord’s Cricket Ground houses the Mound Stand that was renovated and given a simplistic, yet attractive, appearance under the guidance of Michael Hopkins in 1987. An additional steel superstructure was added above the existing mound, with fewer supporting elements to make it look lightweight and suspended. The roof of the stand is practical enough to not disrupt views and yet, provide cover for various spaces such as raked seating, restaurants, etc. Utilisation of materials such as steel, glass and polyester fabric has helped retain it’s a clean look.

5. WWF – The Living Planet Centre

Focusing on flexibility and expansion, the Living Planet Centre has been designed in accordance with the requirement that the previously existing public car park be retained. The entire centre not only houses an exhibition space but also supports the working zones of about 300 staff members, which includes workspaces, a conference venue and other facilities. Keeping in tune with its exteriors, a long curved timber grid-shell has been used as the roofing element. This design has essentially been done to channel large amounts of natural daylight into the interior spaces, thereby giving the site a sustainability feature. This venture by Hopkins displays a holistic approach towards practicality, interior-exterior connection and sustainability, all under one roof.

6. Glyndebourne Opera House

The Glyndebourne Opera House happens to be a redeveloped facility in well-known festival premises. Blending the new with the historic is a visible approach taken by Hopkins in the design of this entire structure, aided by the material usage. The inspiration for the design has been derived from the literal flow of music. In order to give the façade a lighter appearance, the site context i.e. the slope has been used to conceal the bulkier side of the structure whilst opening it up towards the gardens. Material usage ranging from brick walls and pre-cast concrete roofs to fabric canopies and lead panels help give the entire facility a modern look without disturbing its historical importance.

7. University of Nottingham: Jubilee Campus

Another stellar example of Michael Hopkins’ at introducing sustainability into his design happens to be the Jubilee Campus at the University of Nottingham. Designed in 1999, the campus was designed to remain in tune with its natural surroundings, which include a lake and large gardens. The materials used and the construction techniques employed were, both, simple and efficient. This involved the use of in-situ concrete frames, prefabricated timber panels and, like every other Hopkins design, large amounts of glass that helps retain a connection with the exterior surroundings. Consumption of artificial energy resources has been largely reduced due to systems such low-pressure drop ventilation system and placement of photovoltaic cells on the atrium roofs.


About the author:

Mahika Kothawade, currently studying Mass Communication, also has a keen interest in architecture. Her thirst for knowledge drives her to keep an up-to-date knowledge of current affairs around the world.

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