Text description provided by the architects. The inspiring new creative arts building represents the first stage in the college’s masterplan. It is designed to express a distinct college identity while supporting internal connectivity at the building scale as well as the whole campus.
It supports the college’s vision to deliver outstanding and innovative creative arts provision, with three purpose-built floors for performing arts rehearsal spaces, digital arts, and traditional art and design including fashion. Its strong and pure architectural frame means that it can absorb these transient and messy activities well.
A black timber clad pavilion is set on the edge of a tree lined south facing garden which forms a green backdrop. The north facing wall is quite open in order to soak up glare free north light into the gallery spaces. This side of the building is also distinctive as it pushes outwards to form an exciting frontage.
One of the key drivers of the design was the use of circulation space to promote informal meetings between students. Double-banked corridors were avoided, and small ‘pockets of interaction’ created around a central naturally-lit space. The clear orientation of the building together with the visibility of student activities gives the users confidence and a sense of belonging.
The ground floor of the building is largely glazed in order to promote transparency, allowing views towards each of the diverse activities and through the dance studio to the garden beyond. This ribbon of clerestory glazing at ground floor level gives dancers both light and privacy.
At second floor level students enjoy airy loft-like interiors which give a sense of openness and create the atmosphere of a professional gallery arrangement. Views from the interior are generally framed by punched windows, set in the long forms on both north and south walls, except on the western elevation where a shaded curtain wall gives wider views towards mature trees in the garden and suggests openness and transparency to approaching visitors. Vertical fins on rods shade the varying activities internally from low angle westerly sun.
Thoughtfulness with regard to access is evident throughout the scheme and at the main entrance where a gentle gradient has been enabled to ensure that all users arrive happily into what is a building cutting into a sloping site Signage, way finding and orientation along with good colour contrasts, assists all students to navigate and use the college and its facilities without impairment.
An industrial material palette was preferred by the college, which helped in the cost saving process, for example exposed concrete soffits and painted concrete floors. The project was delivered to a tight budget of £1,660/sqm.