Adelphi Building, University of Salford

“Then came the ‘eureka’ moment and I thought: why not just float the large rectangular studio floor over the walkway?”

Forming a new gateway to the University of Salford’s campus, BAM Construction’s New Adelphi Building, also known as the Gateway Building, a £55m multifunctional arts facility straddles a major route across the campus

Project details

  • Customer: University of Salford

  • Architect: Stride Treglown

  • Quantity Surveyor:  Appleyard & Trew

  • Structural Engineer: Ramboll UK Ltd

  • M&E Consultants: Lorne Stewart / Hoare Lea

  • Value: £55 million

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28.8 Fact icon metres the scale of the gap accommodating the thoroughfare below the building
10-55 Fact icon mm The variation in thicknesses of steel beams within the building’s structure
350 Fact icon seats The number of seats in the building's flexible theatre

The building was earmarked for an irregular-shaped site alongside the main thoroughfare into the campus. But the thoroughfare that ran alongside the site was simply in the way.

“The building was either too tall or took up too much public space if we packed it into the triangular site. Then came the ‘eureka’ moment and I thought: why not just float the large rectangular studio floor over the walkway? After that the design fell into place.”

Jon Healiss

Stride Treglown

Concrete lower levels, along with a basement, contain all the cutting-edge facilities that the University demands to attract students in a competitive higher education market. Over 40 separate acoustically protected box-in-box spaces contain two television studios, six industry-standard recording studios, 12 amplified performance studios, 14 instrumental tuition rooms, a 100 M2 band-room and a fully operational 350-seat flexible theatre.

The development is part of a wider strategy to bring of the majority of the University's teaching facilities onto one site. The building had to consolidate several departments in the arts and media faculty. The walkway connects a new square at the heart of the campus and a block of student homes with Salford Crescent station, and forms an integral part of the University’s masterplan.

“One steelwork contractor we spoke to called it the impossible job.”

The gateway is effectively a bridge. To build it BAM effectively became a bridge-builder. But as this bridge was part of a building, it had to be clad, which meant creating an extremely rigid structure – even slight levels of deflection could damage the glazing.

This could only be achieved by using huge volumes of steel in the structural frame, formed from thick steel members that proved extremely troublesome. There was an unexpected volume of rework on site.

“I know more about welding that I ever wanted to. Bridges are designed to be flexible. You can drive lorries over them and they will flex under the weight. When you put glazing on a bridge it becomes problematic. There is a much lower level of permissible deflection.”

Simon Atkinson

BAM’s Project Manager

BAM worked with structural engineer Ramboll to develop the design for the double-height steel truss that rings the perimeter of the upper two storeys. To achieve the stiffness required steels of different thicknesses were used dependent on the loads the beams had to carry. The steels varied in thickness from 10 mm to 55 mm.

On the north of the facade, two concrete blocks stand 43.2 metres apart, and it was here that the frame was subject to the greatest stress and subject to the highest levels of deflection. A 10-tonne column was inserted as a support, but still left a 28.8-metre span requiring large amounts of steel to reach the required stiffness.

Some of the steel beams had to be cut and replacement pieces welded in place on-site. The thickness meant some connections required 36 rounds of welding. Then the steelwork contractor went into administration. BAM stepped in and took over the package.


Clad to appear as one unified building, the lower levels consist of four concrete blocks. A bespoke cladding system was developed that could cope with the higher levels of deflection. BAM worked with curtain wall contractor Alucraft and glazing manufacturer Schüco to develop a system that could perform under these conditions. This high-spec cladding was then used across the whole building as it worked out cheaper than two separate systems.

Simon referred the work to BAM’s in-house technical services team to check all the calculations. “This is something we often do when there are several parties involved, to check the co-ordination. If something goes wrong, there can be a lot of finger-pointing, which can delay the project.”

Picture this

The University’s arts and media department crams a huge number of specialist facilities into a compact 16,000 sq m building.

With two television studios, six recording studios, 12 amplified performance studios, 14 instrumental tuition rooms and a 350-seat flexible theatre, it was essential that all the spaces were acoustically separated from each other.

To achieve this BAM built more than 40 separate acoustically protected box-in-box constructions, where the floor, walls and ceilings of the rooms are separated from the structure with an air gap, to significantly reduce vibration and avoid flanking transmission.