Carnival Arts Centre

Luton’s lively carnival tradition can been traced back to the fifteenth century, but it developed into its present form in the 1970s, acquiring international status in 1998. It is now the largest one-day carnival in the UK, second only to the Notting Hill Carnival. Carnival artists work at the edge of possibility, designing large moving structures that are light enough to wear and walk in. This is an exuberant, colourful, inventive building dedicated to the performance and celebration of carnival arts. 


2011 RIBA Award for Architecture

A close-up detail of the facade at the entrance to one of the upper apartments. Profiled translucent fibreglass back by silver foil, with strands of electrical cable in the interstices. Chain link fencing surrounds each upper flat's terrace.

Being briefed to produce two-bedroom apartments, each measuring just 67m², precipitated a re-appraisal of the spatial priorities of the traditional small flat, which resulted in an unconventional but extremely workable configuration.

The dwellings are identically arranged around an enlarged hallway where the space is both light and complex - anything but a corridor. It is large enough to hold a desk or daybed, a place to sort laundry or an area for children to play.

Bedrooms are kept as small as possible. Clothes, for example, are stored elsewhere. While the kitchen is the main social space of the flat, the living room is a cosy (with)-drawing room that can also be a home office or guest room.

Bathrooms and WCs are separate. Each is spacious, has a large basin and an opening window.

The plan above was made at competition stage.

Ash Sakula drawings photos
Ash Sakula drawings photos
Ash Sakula drawings photos
Ash Sakula drawings photos
Read more about the thinking behind this project:

The corrugated cladding set against silver foil creates lavender and turquoise reflections. In the corrugation's interstices are suspended twisted strands of black and white electrical cabling, adding to the kinetic parallax illusion created as one passes the buildings - an effect developed by Ash Sakula in collaboration with the artist Vinita Khanna.

A few weeks after the residents moved in we received this painting from the Brewer family. It said, "Thank you for our incredible home." In an accompanying letter the Brewers wrote, "... we have never seen anything better designed for us as a family. Thank you for all your thoughtful hard work."

Animators Wrench & Franks made a short video of the project. Here is a still from the closing sequence.

Architect and Client: Ash Sakula

Collaborators: EXYZT, Space Makers, Community Links, The Kindest Group, Technology Will Save Us, Wayward Plant Registry, Atmos, David Barrie Associates, Building Crafts College, Groundwork

Project commenced: 2011

Gross area: Northern site: 4,780m2 / Southern site: 1,880m2