Rafael Viñoly Architects' new venue in Leicester turns traditional idea of theatre 'inside-out'
As an anchor for redevelopment of the St. George’s Conservation Area in downtown Leicester, Curve seeks to engage with the life of the community. To fulfill this mission, Rafael Viñoly Architects designed Curve as a theater turned 'inside out', where production, construction, craft, and technical components are exposed to public view and integrated into the experience of the street.
A four-storey, louvered curtain wall on the southeastern façade reveals to pedestrians the two main performance venues, the 750-seat main theater and the 350-seat black box theater, which are situated on opposite sides of the main stage and surrounded by the public ground-floor lobby. Since the stage, lobby and pavement are all at the same level, with ample visual connections, the theatrical performance is unified with street life.
The lobby is conceived of as another performance site, used in conjunction with or separately from the main stage. Four metal shutters that rise into the overhead fly space are used to create a variety of performance configurations combining the lobby, the theaters, and the street. Moveable sidewalls control visibility to the lobby and street. A second-floor balcony located just inside the glass curtain wall provides another vantage point for watching such 'out-of-the-box' performances, in addition to a panoramic view of the city. Metal louvers on the south-facing glass screen the building to diminish the effects of solar gain inside the lobby.
Four-storey rectangular volumes on the west and north obscure a parking structure, and materially coordinate with historic buildings in the neighbourhood. They contain administrative offices, production facilities, dressing rooms, rehearsal spaces, the box office, a recording studio, and other storage and support needs. Circulation balconies at upper levels overlook the foyer and allow physical and visual connections between staff, performers, and the audience that activate a dramatic, engaging public space.
No distinction is made between front and back-of-house; double-height workshops and production spaces feature glass walls that expose production activities and make them a visible part of the spectacle. Sets and props, and even actors emerging from their dressing rooms, all must cross the lobby to reach the stage, further integrating the audience into the performance.