Kirklees Metropolitan Council appointed Ash Sakula Architects as architects for phase 3 of the Huddersfield Media Centre following an invited design competition. The £3m new building provides offices and studios for creative and media businesses.
‘I see. Very simple, but very effective.’
HM the Queen
The site of the new building consists of a collection of existing nineteenth century buildings, some listed, and located on the edge of Huddersfield town centre. Our building is a simple five-storey glass parallel-piped prism, that cuts through the positions of two existing buildings on the site, parts of whose outer walls are retained.
The building is simple in its overall geometry, complex in the subtlety and variability of its façade treatment, forming a highly engineered ventilated double skin. The outer façade is an offset grid of transparent and translucent glass in toggled patterns, the inner facade a reflective silvery surface with openable windows. This double facade is raised up on a low plinth faced with stone salvaged from the part-demolished former buildings, thus creating a semi-underground undercroft that contains a rock store, also using stone from the demolished buildings. The raising of the ground floor also creates an appropriate and secure separation between it and passers by on the pavement outside.
The environmental strategy is innovative. Air is brought into the undercroft, where it is cooled by the rock store and then distributed throughout the building by a combination of natural ventilation -using the solar chimney effect of the gap between inner and outer façades- and additional mechanical ventilation where needed. The combination of the two skins creates a user-controllable system of temperature and ventilation control.
A typical floor plan shows a parallelogram plan, with a skewed corridor, made as short as possible by placing larger studios at either end and smaller studios in the middle. The skew makes the corridor even shorter, for maximum net to gross, creates a variety of different sized studios for maximum flexibility, and helps make each studio unique. Tea points have been made spacious enough to play an important social role in the life of the building’s users.
The building presents a new face for the Media Centre to the travelling public on the ring road adjoining the site. On the other side it closes the site, creating a newly formed courtyard. It is approached via an outdoor “stage” by means of steps and a broad ramp, occupying the location of one of the part-demolished buildings, one wall of which is retained as a backdrop to the stage. There will naturally be places for young children to run figures of eight, and for parties, get-togethers and dancing. The new courtyard spaces are very simply paved with tarmac, into which is inset a scatter of white quartz granules. At intervals are elliptical areas of terrazzo paving flush with the tarmac, highlighted by night time floodlighting.
At night the façade of the building “breathes”, lights within its double skin slowly and regularly brighten and dim throughout the hours of darkness, this regularity counterpointed against the less predictable usage patterns of lights in individual studios.
At an urban level, the building continues the expansion of the Media Centre creative cluster, comprising hundreds of fledgling businesses, itself part of a larger creative quarter in Huddersfield focused on media and the creative industries. It also provides an exemplar for the treatment of a typical Huddersfield yard space within an urban block, characteristic of nineteenth century development in the town.