A new community theatre for Sparkenhoe Primary School, Leicester. A new build flexible theatre space is fronted by foyer, multimedia and changing spaces created by a radical recladding of the shell of a redundant prefab.
RIBA Award 2004
“The architects have done a wonderful job of converting what was a derelict building into a fabulous arts centre. It is a fantastic asset for children and adults in our community.”
Rupert Bagilhole, Headteacher
Our clients, Leicester City Council, were determined to demolish a decrepid former dole office housed in a tee shaped fifties prefab in the Highfields area of Leicester, and to build in its place a theatre and arts centre for the local primary school and community whose diversity can be measured by the forty different languages spoken in the school. We persuaded them that reusing the existing building could provide them with the space they needed within their budget. A new building could not.
We have therefore built a simple box in the east corner of the site to house the theatre auditorium while ancillary spaces are housed in the existing building after complete refurbishment. The link between old and new buildings is formed by a low, flat-roofed “corridor” joining the two.
The existing building was stripped back to its essential elements: foundations, slab and precast concrete frame. The building was then reroofed with a profiled aluminium roof, and the external walls reclad with a rainscreen cladding of vertical timber battens fronting silver Thermo-foil. In the foyer, the external walls are glass, glazed directly into the existing concrete frames. The theatre is a black box, or rather a silver trapezium, with a sprung timber floor and 180 retractable seats to give a variety of staging arrangements. Heavy construction keeps traffic noise out and performance noise in.
The new centre responds to a highly differentiated site. It has to hold its own against tall lime trees and the adjacent church. We wanted this new landmark to shout a message about performance: not about the facility itself but about the richness and variety of the work within. So we have designed a simple building made up of strong forms and simple materials, and with a welcoming presence which identifies it as a building open to everyone. Built into the thinking of the building there is a multitude of opportunities for public art, both temporary and permanent. The building is controlled from a single, highly visible public entrance, and the spaces in the building can switch from one activity to another simply and quickly.
As well as the auditorium there is a multimedia room, an office, WCs, dressing rooms, a green room and lots of storage. All parts of the building are accessible for all users. A garden, whose landscaping is to be carried out by others, provides external play space.