'The spirit of the everyman'

Monday 14 Jul 2014

Haworth Tompkins wins WAN Performing Spaces Award with The Everyman Theatre

The 2014 WAN Performing Spaces Award jury session was an invigorating meeting with many interesting projects, some praised highly by the judges, other just falling short of the mark. After much deliberation and by popular vote, the Everyman Theatre (Liverpool, UK) by Haworth Tompkins was selected as the winner.

The judging panel consisted of: Flansburgh Architects President, David Croteau; Editor in Chief at WAN, Michael Hammond; architect and Partner at Allies and Morrison, Paul Appleton; Building and Operations Director of the Royal Albert Hall, Chris Cotton; and acoustics designer at Arup, Raj Patel.

The Everyman is one of the well-known architectural gems for the city of Liverpool. Originally built in 1837, it was closed in 2011, only to be redeveloped again shortly after. The result is a new welcoming and inspiring building acting as a ‘creative hub’ that includes a 400-seat theatre within the auditorium, creative workspaces with rehearsal rooms, workshops, a sound studio, a Writers Room overlooking the foyer, and a special studio dedicated to the Young Everyman Playhouse education and community groups.

Discussions began to determine how the project evolved, whether it was a new build or a renovation and it was clear as talks progressed that the existing building had been dismantled and the bricks carefully preserved in order to be reused as the shell for the new design. Paul Appleton was the first to comment on the merits of the project, noting that ‘it was a very brave way to win a competition by reusing the old building, but it has completely transformed what was originally there’.

David Croteau added: “The house is pretty cool; it does a great job. In some ways it looks like a palazzo which has this odd exterior thing, and then you get a beautiful courtyard coming out of it.” Paul Appleton added: “I like the fact you discover the courtyard which gives this exterior quality of the theatre which I think is very powerful, and presumably you can dull that down with lighting to get a very intimate theatre as well.”

For our judges, the stand out feature was the façade. It is devised of rotating panels with images of different people and serves as a shading element for the glass behind, a feature that David Croteau thought ‘was quite elegant’. This said, there was a little confusion as to what the panels were doing and who the people on them were. This was cleared up by David Croteau who explained that they were photographs of residents in the area, which fits in nicely with the brief of including the collective identity of the people of Liverpool.

Although Raj Patel wasn’t able to make it on the day, he reviewed the projects remotely and provided his written insight for the jury session. Of the winning project he said: “It is a nice building refresh, it succeeds in giving the theatre presence to the public. A simple refurbishment of public spaces and a good auditorium refurbishment. Overall an excellent reuse of building with added sustainability.”

The concluding comment went to Paul Appleton who really summed up the scheme, saying: “The project really captures the spirit of the everyman.” On behalf of the WAN team we would like to congratulate Haworth Tompkins for their winning entry and to the other projects that made shortlist.

Alireza Datoo

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