Three benefactors, Mungo Campbell, Esther McCracken and Alastair Fife, (MEA), offered to provide the funds for a building for several charitable organisations to be housed together. The resulting community services building in Ellison Place, known as MEA House was designed to complete a square formed by Rutherford College (now Northumbria University), the Church of Divine Unity and the YMCA.
Ryder and Yates won the competition for their original solution of lifting the main two-storey accommodation block up two floors to allow access to the square, and to incorporate an auditorium. One entrance at ground level from the square gave direct access to the hall and services, while vertical circulation cores, containing stairs, lifts and services, extended through all four floors. The auditorium on the ground floor stood outside the rectilinear main block and followed the curved outline of the site.
The structural system necessary was unique, in that the three circulation cores supported virendeel trusses at roof level, which in turn carried outrigger frames with hangers to carry the floor beams and external cladding. The structural solution was expressed clearly on the gable walls, the profile of the cross section exactly echoing the nature of the suspension structure. The parabolic outline of the penthouse and the exposed diagonal hangers, with the vertical sides and base deeply indented, provided an accurate expression of the supporting service towers and contained the pedestrian deck.
The cores to the north and south contained stairs and had wing halls cantilevered out to meet the cladding, while the central core contained lifts, services and toilets. At ground level, the independent curved auditorium was formed of post-tensioned brickwork. The main elevations, facing east onto the square and west towards the intended motorway, were clad in Corning mirror glass set in aluminium frames.
1-3 images courtesy of Philipson Studios
4-7 images copyright of Authors