Visual Arts Organisation, Colchester

Project: Visual Arts Organisation, Colchester

The UK’s leading manufacturer of door and window control systems, GEZE UK, has created a highly unusual, all-glass dual entrance for firstsite, a world-class contemporary visual arts organisation in Colchester.


The golden crescent-shaped building, by Uruguayan architect Rafael Viñoly, has a spectacular front portico that rises to 11 metres high and uses full-height glazing. Designing a bespoke multi-purpose entrance that would form part of this iconic glass façade, GEZE UK and glazing specialists FA Firman created a set of automatic sliding doors within a set of much larger manual swing doors.


GEZE UK’s complex brief included both strict aesthetic requirements and challenging practical needs. The entrance had to be as seamless as possible, minimise heat loss, yet be big enough to allow large sculptures and art exhibits to be transported in and out of the building as well as being easily accessible for all visitors.


Two giant pivoted glass door leaves were installed, each with a smaller door leaf cut out within it. Single Slimdrive SL operators were then fixed through glass onto each smaller door leaf. These were then interfaced to work as a pair, so the smaller doors automatically slide apart as visitors approach, providing easy access for all and minimal heat loss. When the larger doors are required, the power can be quickly disconnected with the automatic doors open. Each giant door leaf can then be swung open, manually, as required.


Managing director Kaz Spiewakowski said: “This is a spectacular project, and it’s not surprising that firstsite has already been named one of the top six visitor attractions in Essex. This unusual entrance called for some truly ‘out-of-the-box’ thinking, in order for us to create two integrated sets of doors that not only fulfilled two very different purposes, but also complemented the glass façade and enhanced the look of the development as a whole.”


The Slimdrive SL is part of GEZE UK’s Slimdrive range, which means it is just 7cm high and can be mounted discreetly. It has been designed and tested to meet the requirements of all relevant standards and regulations, including Building Bulletin 93, Approved Documents B and M, as well as assisting with the vigorous demands of the Equality Act.