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University College London

Flaxman Gallery, Main Library, Wilkins Building, London

University College London (UCL) has an unrivalled collection of works by the Neo-classical sculptor John Flaxman that were originally donated by his family in 1847 and are now housed in the purpose-built Flaxman Gallery under the cupola of the main UCL Library. At the centre of the gallery is an eleven foot high plaster model of Flaxman’s most famous statue depicting St Michael overcoming Satan which also provided the location for a key scene in the Oscar-winning film “Inception”.

A structural glass plinth supports the statue over the oculus at the heart of the Grade 1 listed building which affords visitors views between the Flaxman Gallery and the Octagon gallery below. In architects Burwell Deakins’ refurbishment of the gallery in 2012, contemporary wooden bench seating with bronze legs was added around the statue’s circular plinth. A further part of the refurbishment saw building services consultant Fowler Martin introduce Jaga Mini Canal trench heating flush with the floor under the bench seating to warm the gallery making it an even more attractive place to linger and contemplate for students and visitors alike.

In addition to the grand architectural history of the building, what marked this project out as being special was the requirement that the grille should be solid bronze to harmonise with other architectural accents and the extremely tight radius for the trench heating which was required to follow the line of the bench seating above.

Jaga’s design solution was to build the circular trench in four quadrants. The highest quality bronze was sourced from France and the grilles were entirely hand-crafted with tightly spaced, slim-line slats held in place with screws at the ends to achieve the tight radius. The trench units were delivered to UCL fully assembled, factory pressure-tested, and beneath the grilles feature Jaga Type 15 Low-H2O heat exchangers. These are fast to respond and powerful enough to serve as a primary heat source when required. Jaga Mini Canal ducts also fit into recesses as shallow as 90mm suiting the trench heating for retrofitting in older buildings as well as installations in new builds.

In time the grilles in the Flaxman Gallery will oxidize to a classic dark brown colour to match the benches’ bronze supporting legs, the bronze reinforcements to the plinth and also the bronze handrails on the helical concrete staircase which connects the Wilkins Building’s different floors.

 

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