Elm House, Brighton

Project Elm House, University of Brighton School of Business and Law
Contractor Gilbert Ash
Architect Hassell’s London Studio
Products Bespoke white 3D terracotta tile cladding on custom ceramic veil frame

The brief

To create a stunning and meaningful terracotta tile facade for a new six-storey building at the University of Brighton’s Moulsecoomb campus development. Architect Hassell challenged Aliva to design and manufacture a facade solution which would imitate the beautiful starling murmurations seen above Brighton Pier. The bespoke design should also reference Brighton’s historical mathematical tiles, and visualise the life changes experienced by students attending the university’s School of Business and Law.

The client’s ambition was to create a striking, clean and natural aesthetic to ensure the building took centre stage in the new Moulsecoomb Campus. From a functional perspective, the facade solution needed to be economical, easy to install, durable, low maintenance and weather resistant.

What we did

Collaboration between the Aliva design and manufacturing team, and the Elm House architect and contractor, was critical to the success of the project. This ensured project delivery was achieved on time and on budget in 2021, against the backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Aliva’s design solution involved a custom ceramic veil frame which wraps around the new building from level two upwards. The frame supports 3,120m2 of white 3D tiles. A total of 50,000 geometric glazed clay tiles have been installed to deliver an organic, sustainable and cost-efficient solution. The handmade tiles come in a range of matt, gloss and semi-gloss finishes.

In terms of weatherproofing, the facade is built to withstand all that Brighton’s coastal location can throw at it. Non-porous tiles keep the rain out, while UV resistance ensures the building’s colour won’t fade in the sun.

What makes it special

Elm House illustrates the flexible nature of Aliva’s terracotta cladding solutions. This versatile option can be customised to realise even the most ambitious of creative visions. At Elm House, the end result is a building which tells a complex and fascinating story about Brighton, its natural environment and location, and the part its university plays in the city’s life and future. The environmentally responsive building now forms a beautiful welcome to the Moulsecoomb campus, drawing the eyes of staff, students and visitors.

In 2022, the one-of-a-kind project secured a win at the UK Facade Awards and in 2023 it was shortlisted for three international design awards. Elm House is an outstanding technical and aesthetic achievement.


Julian Gitsham, Principal and Education & Science Sector Leader, at Architects Hassell, said:

“This is a transformational design project and the result of a collaborative team effort. From concept to manufacture and delivery, Elm House represents our vision for a well-crafted, meaningful and environmentally responsive cladding. A design that references both the historic mathematical tiles of Brighton along with the murmurations of starlings that gather over Brighton Pier.

“This bespoke facade design creates a wonderful narrative of the state of change that students experience whilst at university. The crafting and technical skill that Aliva demonstrated throughout the project led to an outstanding quality product and the stunning aesthetic of the final result.”

Neil Heard-White, Project Manager for the University of Brighton/Fulkers Bailey Russell, said:

“Elm House is the centrepiece of our transformed Moulsecoomb campus. It is a stunning addition to the local cityscape and an important focal point for our students, staff, and visitors.

“As the flagship building on the campus, we needed it to deliver both functionally and aesthetically, and the bespoke cladding facade developed by Aliva does just that.”