This site was once Leicester’s central bus depot. After its transformation in 2004 into a thriving studio and workspace hub, the letters LCB - once short for Leicester City Buses - came to stand for Leicester Creative Business. A converted building and a new building sit either side of a central courtyard, together accommodating over fifty studios and workspaces, as well as meeting rooms, galleries and a lively café.
The folded street-facing elevation was re-faced with a wrapper of brick that kicks out at each end, as if to say, “Of course, I’m just a skin”. Recalling the industrial use of white-glazed tiles to the backs of buildings, the off-street elevation was treated with white and clear glass, incorporating two commissioned artworks. A main architectural move of the renovation element was to carve a void down through the building, glazed with timber-framed panes, around which the building’s circulation was organised, avoiding dark unnecessary corridors.
The old bus depot was an elegant, hospitable base, where transport staff could take hot meals and recreation. The client described it as looking “like a huge public lavatory” but an early budget cut prompted the uptake of Ash Sakula’s pragmatic proposal to renovate the existing building rather than demolish and build again.
The Depotcentre has played a key part in a successful strategy to regenerate a city centre once blighted and broken by industrial decline. The building hums with activity. Full occupation was achieved more quickly than expected and the client added a second incubator space nearby to meet demand.
With Ash Sakula’s usual emphasis on communality and conviviality, the tea-making points in the new building are plywood-faced, like tea chests, with lowered ceilings and a window seat lending them a cosy intimacy. Our playful materiality finds expression in the black astroturf and waney-edge timber panelling that are used at entrances. Attuned to the artistic sensibility of creative people who like to do things their own way, we built in opportunities for self-expression. Postboxes in the entrance space form a colourful wall of drawers with customisable fronts. Studio doors are coated in blackboard paint so that users can draw on them. Clear perspex cubes, mounted next to each front door like a mezuzah, can be opened and filled with artefacts. The toilets are also signed with cubes which hold rolls of pink and blue toilet paper.
Architect: Ash Sakula
Client: Leicester City Council (Regeneration & Culture, Cultural Quarter Development, Mike Candler)
Funding: Leicester City Council, Leicestershire Economic Partnership, European Regional Development Fund and East Midland Development Agency
Contractor: Clegg Construction
Project Management: Focus Consultants
Structural Engineer: Diamond Wood Partnership
M+E Engineer: EP Consulting
Sustainability and Environmental Consultant: WSP Group
Cost Consultant: Turner and Townsend
Total floor area: 3610 m2
Total area refurbishment: 2370 m2
Total area new build: 1240 m2
Value: £4.75 million
Tender Submitted: December 2002
Commenced: April 2003
Completed: June 2004
Photographer: Nick Kane and Faye Chamberlain
Leicester City Council Public Arts
Jasia McArdle (public art manager)
Linda Schwab (Seed - facade artwork)
Tony Stallard (Cipher - courtyard artwork)
Faye Chamberlain (Transformations - process documentary)
Metro Boulot Dodo Bathysphere
2006 RIBA Award
2006 EM Award