A ‘cultural living room’

Nick Myall
Friday 04 Nov 2016

Charred wood cladding will ensure that this Performance Art Centre blends in with its surroundings

Studio Seilern Architects (SSA) has broken the ground to start the construction of the new Perfomance Art Centre at the Wellington College (Oxfordshire).

Acting as the hub of the college’s new Cultural Quarter the project aims to upgrade the existing theatre facilities and will provide a 1400-seat performance space to accommodate a variety of activities.

The PAC will sit on the boundary between the campus and the forest that frames the southern and eastern areas, creating a vibrant public space that connects with the rich, green landscaping.

The materiality of the building becomes a defining factor. Seilern has proposed a charred wood cladding that gives the impression that the entire structure has emerged from the woods whilst still being a part of it.

In charred wood facing, planks are burned on both sides to the desired amount of char. The carbon exterior will release the moisture inside the board as gas and steam. This method of burning the surface of wood building materials began in Japan during the 1700s. Since Japanese builders traditionally used cedar, as well as cypress, the process is called shou sugi ban, or “burnt cedar.” Using charred wood for construction is a viable eco-friendly option, particularly since this completely natural manufacturing process requires only fire and wood; the harsh chemicals used in pressure-treated lumber are eliminated.

Seilern’s proposal aims to add one more distinctive layer to the brief by creating a ‘cultural living room’ (CLR) between the existing theatre and the new assembly hall. The purpose of the CLR is to give students an unstructured and informal area for creative output such as holding exhibitions and talks. Furthermore, it is designed to act as a fun social hub for the community of Wellington College.

Nick Myall

News editor

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