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Patera relocatable building, site of
east of A50, Fenton, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire
associated engineer
Anthony Hunt Associates
Anthony Hunt
date  1980 - 1982
UK era  Modern  |  category  Building  |  reference  SJ889462
In the late 1970s, an industrial group based in Stoke commissioned a relocatable steel industrial building. They wanted to expand their interests in steel fabrication and they intended to sell the buildings as a product. This is the site of the factory where the Patera buildings were made and where the first two were erected.
The idea of the Patera project was to design an off-the-peg industrial workshop. The buildings were 18m long by 12m wide, with an internal height of 3.85m throughout. They were fully finished in the factory ready for bolting together at the desired location. Three men with a forklift truck could erect one in a matter of days.
However, some preparation was required. Each building needed a reinforced concrete raft slab as a base to which the structure was fixed using specially designed steel castings. All the buildings' services — power, water, etc. — were located above floor level.
The structural frames were pin-jointed for ease of handling and assembly. At the centres of the spans of the frames were 'tension-only' links — special fittings able to respond to varying winds and temperatures. Under normal conditions the structure acted as a three-pin arch. In other conditions it acted as a rigid frame. This innovation meant that very slender lightweight steel sections could be used, in this case tubular, made up into trusses.
The cladding was structural and consisted of steel panels. The same panels were used for both the walls and the roof. A new pressing method was developed for their manufacture that kept their edges flat and corrugated them in the centre, which increased their strength. All the panels were mounted on the inside of the frames and this brought certain advantages. By keeping the structure outside the building, it was protected somewhat from fire should one break out inside, thus meeting fire regulations using less building material.
The first two buildings were erected at this site and stayed in place for some two years. They were used as demonstration buildings, part of the marketing of the project. Sites where other buildings were erected include Barrow-in-Furness, Canary Wharf and the Royal Docks in London.
Only one Patera building remains today. The Barrow-in-Furness one was dismantled and re-erected in Broadley Terrace, London, to house the offices of its architect, Michael Hopkins & Partners. All the others have made way for property developments.
The Patera project belongs to a small group of off-the-peg buildings by leading architects and engineers — other examples include the Dimaxion house (1946) by R. Buckmaster Fuller (now fully restored and in the Henry Ford Museum), Maison Tropique (1956) by Jean Prouvé (now brought back from Africa and on show at Yale University), and the IBM Travelling Pavilion (1984) by Ove Arup & Partners. Interest in these buildings remains strong, perhaps because of their high level of detail and their 'collectable' quality.
Architect: Michael Hopkins & Partners
Project engineer: Mark Whitby
Quantity surveyor: White & Turner
Services engineer: Dale & Goldfinger
Research: ND

Patera relocatable building, site of