Eagles Meadow shopping centre, Wrexham

The elevation of one of the four blocks in the shopping centre borders a stepped water feature and is the focal point of the scheme. We originally wanted to use riven Welsh slate as cladding, but decided we couldn’t afford it and started to look for alternatives that gave a similar effect.

We were looking for two aspects – the rippled texture of riven slate, and the choice of colours. If we had been going for Welsh slate, we wanted a mauve/purple colour and a dark grey/blue colour. Petrarch panels offered both, and at half the price of slate. The product is also supplied as large panels that are straightforward to fit – the largest are 3,000mm x 900mm. With slate, only small panels are available, so installation would have been expensive. The panels are manufactured from crushed minerals bonded with an epoxy binder. They have secret fixings drilled on the back and are clipped onto an aluminium frame. They’re only 10mm thick and quite brittle, so we didn’t use them at ground level.

We could have opted for porcelain or ceramic panels, but Petrarch was the nearest to the slate effect we wanted. They’re produced in a range of finishes that mimic natural minerals, and I think they do a pretty good job of it.