Corner building completes to provide 'Folkestone's Living Room'
Alison Brooks Architects have completed their design for the Folkestone Arts and Business Centre (‘Quarterhouse’), the culmination of a two stage national competition win. The 1,550sq m building is a key element of the arts-led regeneration of Folkestone spearheaded by client The Creative Foundation, a charitable trust.
The Quarterhouse includes a 220 seat, 500 standing multi-purpose auditorium for music, dance, theatre, film performances and conferences; ground floor foyer and exhibition space; first floor café/bar and a top floor business enterprise centre. Funding for the project came from a £3.5m grant from Kent County Council with a further £500,000 from the South East England Development Agency (SEEDA).
The Quarterhouse was conceived as both a ‘beacon’ announcing a new cultural hub for Folkestone, and as a modest ‘bookend’ building completing the curved east facade of late Georgian buildings that form Tontine Street. The building’s most prominent feature, the fluted mesh cladding illuminated from behind at night, is inspired by the maritime iconography of Folkestone and particularly of the fragile and translucent scallop shell. The cladding was developed to protect the building; provide an illusion of curvature on its flat facades through modulated flute spacing; a reference to stage curtains, and to provide a constantly changing perception of texture and pattern depending on the time of day and quality of light.
Within the building optimum acoustic conditions are provided for inside the auditorium through the principle of creating two concrete boxes; an inner and outer box structurally and acoustically isolated. The inner in-situ concrete box prevents amplified sound escaping from the auditorium and restrains the tensioned wire grid; while the outer concrete block box prevents exterior noise from entering the performance space. Piled foundations support a concrete ground floor slab; structural walls are either insitu concrete or blockwork. Concrete planks are used for upper floors. Steel beams and columns enable the large areas of glazing and cantilever on the east (Tontine Street) side of the building. Interior finishes in public areas include gold Formica, mild steel sheet; polished concrete and fumed oak; Barrisol ceiling and mirrors; the auditorium flooring is fumed oak; mild steel balcony balustrades; retractable seating and gold curtains.
Fundamental to the design of the Quarterhouse is the idea that the building will form a home for Folkestone’s performing arts, a haven for start-up creative businesses and a social hub for the wider public. The building’s name is intended to reinforce this idea - literally the Creative Quarter’s house. From competition stage ABA has described the building as Folkestone’s Living Room: an informal place for relaxing, for meeting friends, sharing ideas. The street level ‘shopfront’ and huge glazed façade of the first floor café are key to this concept– a window to the city that communicates inclusivity to the whole of Folkestone.