A new kind of community cultural centre opens
Marks Barfield, the creators behind the London Eye, have just opened their latest building, The Lightbox. The Lightbox is Woking’s first museum and gallery. It originated from the community and contains galleries capable of displaying both international exhibitions and local artist’s work alike; has a permanent exhibition that tells the Woking’s story as well as being a meeting place that provides a cultural bridge between different groups. Marks Barfield Architects won a design competition in 2002 for the project which has been built for £4.1 mill. The design is entirely as a response to a challenging site and brief, plus a desire to maximise the space within the building. The Lightbox’s site is a triangular sliver of land sandwiched between the Basingstoke canal and a 5 -lane highway that cuts the site off from the centre of Woking. Julia Barfield, Managing Director for Marks Barfield explains “One of the key objectives was to address the building to the canal while protecting it from the highway and connecting it back into the town. Our aim was to create a gentle landmark and reflect the culture diversity of the town – a jewellery box that contains all kinds of cultural treasures. We were also determined to create a low energy building that lives up to Woking’s reputation as the UK’s greenest borough ” The main top lit atrium in the building provides the main circulation and orientation space and is also used to display the gallery’s art collection with significant pieces by Elizabeth Frink, Eduardo Paolozzi and Jacob Epstein. The roof lights not only provide natural lighting but also generate electricity using PV’s. At ground level the atrium is glazed with dichroic striped glass creating spectacular rainbow reflections when the sun shines and encouraging views into and out of the building. The entire building is highly insulated with natural ventilation in all but the main galleries. Overlapping 'snakeskin' anodised aluminium panels, in 5 shades of gold and silver, spiral up and around the building. The cladding, inspired from nature, suggests the lateral line found on fish for balance.
A canal garden has been created by locating the building as far to the wider eastern end of the site as possible, leaving a south westerly facing garden space orientated to the canal. The 3m high gabion wall protects the canal garden from the noise and pollution of the adjacent highway, enabling visitors to experience the arcadian tranquillity of the canal which has historically been an important feature of Woking.