Northwich Cultural Centre

Northwich, UK

(Competition project, 2009)

By responding to existing patterns of movement around the site, this project produces a new choreography for it, one in which pedestrian routes, performance spaces, river traffic and vehicular servicing are strategically organised in order to enhance the environmental quality of the area and the cultural possibilities of the institution.

The project is understood as a cultural and economic hub, a generator of activity, and a focus for new developments. At the same time it is an embarkation and orientation point for river walks, parkland and boating. A footbridge spans the river to connect with the cultural centre, integrating its interior spaces and facilities with public urban routes. The ramp that folds up from street level to link with the footbridge provides access to an upper-level entry adjacent to the exhibition space and, through its arrangement, forms a new external public room for the town that can be used as an outdoor theatre or cinema. This area receives pedestrians moving from the town market place, while the oversailing bridge beyond shelters the main (ground floor) entrance to the cultural centre and acts as a gateway to the river path running north.

The intention in the design of the programmatic elements in the cultural centre is to provide dynamic, compelling, convivial, and beautiful naturally-lit spaces together with possibilities for the overlap, connection and intermingling of uses. Throughout, the design is as attentive to the theatricality of the open public and circulation areas as it is to the performance spaces themselves. The basic organisational strategy of situating the main auditorium to the rear of the site allows the more informal public functions (bar, restaurant, and gallery spaces), together with the daylit dance theatre on level 1, to enjoy the waterfront. This in turn also permits the main auditorium to be opened onto the foyer area via large hanger-scaled doors, thus combining performance with open public areas and suggesting new possibilities for the configuration of activities. Similarly, the main auditorium can be combined with the adjacent green room.