Viñoly's first completed UK project, Leicester’s new “inside-out” theatre, opens
'Curve', a new £61 million theatre in Leicester, is an innovative, democratic building that respects Leicester’s history, whilst helping to define its future. The building, which is Rafael Viñoly Architects' (RVA) first completed project in the UK, is the result of a close collaboration between the design team, Leicester Theatre Trust and Leicester City Council.
The project is dubbed ‘Curve’ for obvious reasons. And while the Theatre no doubt brings a dynamic new geometry to Leicester’s streetscape, the real innovation here is how RVA turned the building “inside-out”, exposing the production, construction, craft and technical components of the building for all the world to see. There is literally no separation between front-of-house and back of house operations so actors, spectators and passers-by share a common stage.
An anchor for the redevelopment of St. George’s Conservation Area in Leicester, the heart of the cultural district, the theatre features a dramatic four-storey glass facade with metal louvers revealing two main audience volumes, a 750-seat main auditorium and 350-seat studio, and production and administrative facilities behind.
Conceived as islands with a public foyer, a central stage sits at street level between two coloured volumes and a system of metal shutters which, like stage curtains, enable the creative team to place the audience in a variety of configurations. The placement of the stage, foyer and street at one level makes for a clear visual connection between audience, actor and the public and offers up possibilities of traditional and unconventional uses of the space. An L-shaped brick volume houses dressing rooms, rehearsal spaces, production facilities, the ticket office, a recording studio, a kitchen and offices for the Leicester Theatre Trust.
“Curve is an extraordinary contribution to the regeneration of Leicester”, say RVA. “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.”