The Angle Ring Company Ltd - steel bending

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Thomas Deacon Academy

Helical Staircase

Helical Staircase

Spiralled steel stairs

Spiralled steel stairs

Transition plates

Transition plates


Four sweeping steel staircases dismissed by most engineers and architects as being "impossible" to make are now in place at the heart of the biggest of the government's flagship City Academies.

The staircases form the main pedestrian arteries through the central concourse of the Thomas Deacon Academy in Peterborough, the largest of the 200 specialised City Academies the government is committed to creating by 2010.

Sponsored by the city's Perkins Engines Company and The Deacon's School Trust and backed by Peterborough City Council and the Department for Education and Skills (DfES), Thomas Deacon Academy will specialise in Information Communications Technology (ICT), maths and science, and its aim is to become one of the country's leading high-tech educational centres.

At the heart of the Academy's new building, due to open in September, is a vast three-level central concourse area with a striking geometrically designed domed roof made of steel and glass. Connecting the building's three floors are four steel staircases, which many engineers had said would be impractical to manufacture in steel.

Nevertheless, following an international search for a company who could manufacture the giant curved sections for the sweeping staircases in steel to the required specifications, the task was finally awarded to Midlands-based Angle Ring Ltd.

Working closely with the Academy's lead contractor Laing O'Rourke and its steel structural contractor, Dearneside Fabrications, Angle Ring were able to deliver helically curved sections to the exact design of steel staircases originally set out by the architect.

Paul Middleton, Angle Ring's marketing manager, said: “The architect wanted the concourse and its soaring staircases sweeping upwards to reflect the Academy's high-tech specialisation and the students' aspirations that the new school was meant to fuel and fulfil.

“However, many engineers said making the staircases in steel was impractical, and they could only be done in concrete, which would be out of keeping with the architect's vision. But our experience of steel bending enabled us to produce exactly the design of staircases set out in the plans, and they do look stunning.”

Angle Ring were able to achieve the architect's staircase specifications by forming stringers made from spiralled 400mm by 200mm box sections, a fabrication expertise, which the contractors had only otherwise found available in the USA.

With their anticipated exceptionally heavy footfall at peak times, each of the four staircases was made of four sections of 10 treads, with three landings in between, with every component being curved.

Notes for Editors

For the four staircases, Angle Ring made about 110m of spiralled section and about 66m of flat curved sections. The company also pressed the treads from 15mm thick plate, and spiralled the handrail sections in 42.4mm stainless steel tube. The two bridges in the concourse structure, each spanning 13m, were formed using parallel box sections with decking in between.

The Thomas Deacon Academy has developed out of the Government's Academy Programme initiative to revitalise secondary schooling in areas where local schools can benefit from re-organisation and fresh ideas.  It will comprise three pre-existing schools - Deacon's School, Hereward Community College and the John Mansfield School - which will come together on a single campus in a purpose-built building on the eastern side of Peterborough.

The Government is financing the £46.4 million capital cost of the Academy in the main, with contributions from Peterborough City Council, The Deacon's School Trust and Perkins Engines Co. Ltd, sponsors of the Academy.

The Academy is intended to provide excellence in the teaching of science and engineering, and offers a full academic curriculum and programme of activities of the highest quality.

The Thomas Deacon Academy will use internal space and light to influence and make statements about the learning activity within.

Alec Osborn, Director of the Academy Board and trustee of The Deacon's Trust explained the concept behind the distinctive design of the building, saying: “The Academy building is designed to reflect the vision and ethos of the Academy and its commitment to excellence at every level.  The shape of the building embodies innovation and captures the two specialisms of maths and science that will be part of all aspects of Academy life”.

Work on the Academy's futuristic building was started in 2005, and the school is on track to open its doors to the first 1,800 students in September, with the aim of reaching its full complement of 3,000 students soon afterwards.

The new building will house students and staff from the three schools - John Mansfield School, Hereward Community College and the Deacon's School - that will close when the Academy opens.

As well as the normal curriculum aiming towards A and AS levels, the Academy will also provide advanced vocational courses as well as a Sixth Form offering the European-favoured International Baccalaureate.

Stewart Jackson, MP for Peterborough, said: “This new, state-of-the-art school will greatly enhance the secondary school provision in the city and help local children to realise their full potential. These are exciting times; I wish the school all the best for the future.”

Building work is due to be completed in May, and during the summer the building will be fitted out with modern ICT facilities and equipment, and students and staff will be given the opportunity to familiarise themselves with their new environment before the Academy formally opens its doors in September.

The Academy building is designed to be environmentally friendly and incorporates many sustainability features.  The facilities inside the building will be flexible and allow teaching to develop towards a more 'university' type of environment.  The majority of teaching rooms are outward-facing and naturally ventilated.  Apart from the building itself, there will be extensive landscaping areas, a wetland eco-pool, a new all-weather pitch, 8 grass pitches and the existing tennis courts will be resurfaced.

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