‘Curve’ is Rafael Viñoly Architects’ first completed project in the United Kingdom. It is an innovative, democratic building that respects Leicester’s history, whilst helping to redefine its future.
The £61 million project is the result of a close collaboration between the design team, Leicester Theatre Trust and Leicester City Council. The cutting edge design turns the typical theatre configuration ‘‘inside out’ by exposing the production, construction, craft, and technical components of theatre to the public, integrating all aspects of performance into the life of the city and making it truly inclusiveand accessible. For the very first time audiences and passers-by will be engaged in the actual process of theatre-making, behind the scenes.
An anchor for the redevelopment of the St. George’s Conservation Area in Leicester, the heart of the Cultural Quarter, the theatre features a four-story glazed and louvered curtain wall. Hung from a vast truss spanning the site, the glass hits the ground without interruption from structure, offering a continuous and unobstructed 4m high window revealing the two main audience volumes, a 750-seat main auditorium and a 350-seat studio, and the production and administrative facilities behind.
Conceived as islands within a public foyer, a central stage sits at street level between the two coloured volumes, and a system of metal shutters enable the creative team to place the audience in a variety of configurations, creating possibilities for either conventional or technically more ambitious theatre production and design. The continuum of stage, foyer and street at one level allows for clear visual connection between audience, actor and the public, and offers up possibilities for both traditional and unconventional uses of the space to meet the community’s diverse cultural needs.
Nodistinction is made between front and back-of-house; double-height workshops and productionspaces feature glass walls that expose production activities and make them a visible part of the spectacle. A café is located at street level to attract visitors throughout the day and during the non-performance hours.
An L-shaped brick volume along the north and west elevations contains dressing rooms, rehearsal spaces, production facilities, the ticket office, a recording studio, a kitchen, Leicester Theatre Trust’s offices, and support spaces. Tiers of balconies at upper levels overlook the foyer, giving physical and visual connections to staff, performers, and the audience from the top to the bottom of the building’s volume that activate a dramatic, engaging space.
“Curve is an extraordinary contribution to the regeneration of Leicester,” says Rafael Viñoly. “This could not have been if it weren’t for the vision of the people involved. They were interested in this notion of a theatre being an inside-out experience, something in which the production has an interest and value as well as the performance itself.”