Text description provided by the architects. The project – centred on a 19th-century paper mill - was commended for the simplicity of the design, characterised by the choice of materials as well as the successful transformation of an existing historic boiler house. The new building is linked to the refurbished boiler house by a new square where many folk high school activities take place, reinforcing connections with the local community.
Schmidt hammer lassen architects’ choice of non-traditional materials provides a striking counterpoint to the existing buildings. The architects’ aim was to provide the best possible physical environment in order to encourage fellowship and co-operation in a folk high school, where educational and the social aspirations form an integral part of the curriculum. At the same time, the building has been designed to connect the folk high school to the town by offering a vibrant environment for the local community, including cafés, a music theatre, cinemas and a media centre.
The building celebrates its constituent parts – internally, ducting and ventilation systems are honestly expressed. Externally, the new building is clad with boldly perforated rust-red steel panels. After dark the internal lights shine through the circular apertures incised into the façade, turning the building into an animated beacon shining its light over the surrounding area. In this way the building appears to be perpetually in motion, becoming itself a ‘performer’.
The Leaf Awards has a trackrecord of recognising the world’s most innovative and exciting architectural practices. Previous winners of the influential award include David Chipperfield Architects’ America’s Cup Foredeck Building in Valencia and Skidmore, Owings and Merrill LLP’s ARB bank Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
Commenting on the award, Bjarne Hammer, Partner at schmidt hammer lassen architects says: “Our ambition for Performers House was to design a building that opens up, inspires curiosity and invites the community inside. To achieve this, the ground floor of the new building has a glass facade that can be partially moved to one side, which transforms the external balcony into a performance arena. Students and local people can come together here to create music, dance and theatre performances on this urban stage“.
“The new square was designed to be the natural centre for all activities – a foyer, a stage, an interval space and a rehearsal room are all divisible into smaller, more intimate sections. It is built on an existing town square and now links the folk high school and the town’s key public space.