The Arts Centre is located within a former Congregational church – one of the oldest buildings in Hulme. The refurbishment was conceived as a series of distinct work phases, each timed to suit the acquisition of funding from bodies including ERDF, City Challenge, Capital Challenge, City Council, English Partnerships and the Lottery.
Each phase was designed to reflect the new vitality and ambition of the building and to reinforce the status of the building as a cultural focus for young people. Emphasis was placed on de-institutionalising the internal environment, in particular the need to alleviate the foreboding Edwardian entry sequence. The existing fabric was to opened-up and major new elements inserted into the existing shell.
The existing basement was upgraded, providing a series of flexible spaces tailored to requirements of modern music and dance rehearsal. A dynamic new entrance volume was carved out of the front of the building. This major space generates a new public focus to the building, provides a practical and dramatic solution to accessibility requirements, and creates a hub space that represents the changes taking place within the building. The floor to this entrance volume is employed as a piece of new public artwork produced in the floor’s surface.
The new auditorium is described by a simultaneously curving and sloping stressed plywood ‘hull’, which slides into the refurbished Crush Hall circulation space. A 230 seat retractable seating unit allows the transformation of the space from a theatrical performance auditorium, into a flat floor rehearsal / exhibition arena.
The final phase of work created flexible ‘white box’ galley space, a ‘clear space’ rehearsal room beneath a new floating roof and supporting office areas. The central lightwell was exploited as an extension of the gallery with a new deck area and projection screen under a glazed roof, providing the facility for large scale multi-media art installations at the heart of the building.