Frederic Schwartz Architects

NORTHWICH CULTURAL CENTER COMPETITION

Northwich, United Kingdom
2009

Northwich

Both the form and contrasting colors of the vibrant diamond-patterned facade of the Northwich
Cultural Centre are inspired by the vernacular structures of Northwich and its salt mining history. The pattern is an abstraction of the beams in the local Tudor style townhouses and the structural trusswork in Northwich’s bridges. The resultant diamond shape is also evocative of a salt crystal.

Unlike the trusses and half-timber construction from which it derives its form, this facade is a non-structural skin comprised of white, diamond-shaped panels with transparent glazing in between. The facade does not connect directly to the floor slabs, allowing for double-height spaces and monumental stairs serving all floors. The building’s large glazed openings allow light to enter the building and provide views on all sides.

The Cultural Centre, though civic in scale, integrates with the vernacular architecture through color and pattern. The glass will appear dark during the day, boldly contrasting with the white panels. This color combination emulates the neighboring Tudor style buildings’ black and white facades. At night, that color scheme is reversed as the illuminated interior glows between the diamond-shaped panels. The building’s glowing and filigreed facade will serve as a beacon for concert-goers and neighbourhood shoppers alike.

Northwich Cultural Centre

Following the master plan as a guide, the building is the anchor for the new retail development zone along Weaver Way on the Baron’s Quay site. We prioritized pedestrian access to the Cultural Centre by limiting automobile traffic on Weaver Way, the primary vehicular access route to the building. The pedestrian-only alleys leading from Witton Street frame views of the Cultural Centre and provide access to it.

Served by multiple pedestrian paths and the road, the main entry plaza is located in the gap between the new development and the Cultural Centre. Emphasizing river views, the building is sited parallel to the River Weaver, and also overlooks a performance plaza bounded by Weaver Way to the south and a riverside bike and walking path to the west. The diamond site plan motif proliferates across the plaza, punctuating it with patterned pavement and areas for planting and trees. The path to the north of the building is comparatively narrow and flanked by a new densely-planted zone. This planting is an extension of the green space at the adjacent sewage treatment plant, while serving to mask the plant. This path starts at the new shopping area to the east and continues across the footbridge to the far side of the river.

Northwich Cultural Center

The primary objective of this design is to minimize energy and water consumption through correct solar orientation and low water usage, maximizing the use of natural resources such as ventilation, daylight and rainwater as well as ensuring future adaptability. To generate renewable energy on-site, we propose investigating the use of alternative systems as part of an integrated design process taking into account site qualities, engineering, feasibility, capital cost and payback period.

We understand that for reduction in energy consumption, the most cost efficient methods are passive approaches in which the architecture of the building acknowledges the physical environment. For this reason, there is a relatively small amount of glass on the south to limit heat gain and a small amount of glass on the north side to increase the quantity of insulated wall panels. The east and west sides have external vertical louvers to limit heat gain.

Roof surfaces on the building would be planted. The pavement at the plaza level would be permeable and punctuated with green spaces. These devices will increase water absorption and reduce runoff, thereby reducing the impact of the building and decreasing the development’s contribution to localized flooding. The location of the building on the site allows for sun to reach the plaza, increasing its usability and comfort.

We think about sustainability as a part of everything we do. In public projects, the buildings and the public space should not only be models of sustainable design, but also educational tools to teach citizens by example.

   
   

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