The design of the Cafe is complex and the budget for construction was small. As a result, the Heatherwick Studio loaded the complex construction towards the primary structural and waterproofing element; - the steel skin of the building. The skin of the Cafe was prefabricated off-site and, as such, its construction could run in parallel to demolition and site preparatory work. Thomas Heatherwick also used the local steelwork expertise of Littlehampton Welding, who built his Rolling Bridge in Paddington to construct the structural shell of the building. Investing precision and expertise in the outer shell permits it to be used as a template to which internal surfaces and fixtures could be moulded. To realise the unique structural form of the Cafe, Heatherwick Studio employed the services of Adams Kara Taylor, a progressive, design-led Structural and Civil Engineering consultancy based in London. Their office has quickly become one of the leading practices in the world, collaborating with many of the best architects, developers and contractors in the country. They have worked on innovative architectural projects including Zaha Hadid’s Wolfsburg Science Centre and jumped at the chance to work on such a remarkable, yet small scale, project.
Dave Rayment, Associate at Adams Kara Taylor says: “Contemporary architecture often weaves the structural aspects within the architectural idea. Thomas’ concept demanded this understanding with a full expression of all structural elements, from the rippling form of the steel skin to the columns integrated within the glazed facade. Rather than build a structural frame clad with steel panels, the steel shell which forms the external skin also acts as the building structure. The architect’s digital 3-D model of the complex geometry was directly imported into a finite element design package, allowing the inherent stiffness of the sculptural shell to be modelled with the latest digital analysis methodology partly developed at AKT. The glazed wall facing the sea is articulated by a series of columns fabricated from steel plate which incorporate rainwater pipes, glazing frames and shutter guide rails.”