Sparkenhoe Theatre

This area of Leicester, Highfields, is both deprived and diverse. At Sparkenhoe Primary School, forty languages are spoken. Having the form of a silver trapezium, Sparkenhoe Theatre gives the school a light-filled multifunctional space for the school and its wider community to use however they choose.

The project embodies sustainable practice. As well as being highly insulated and using green construction materials, the retention of the original building fabric represents an intelligent re-use of embodied energy and a clever use of a tight budget. The project has turned the site from an unloved and unusable eyesore to a vibrant centre of community life.

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Sparkenhoe Theatre is the kind of facility every primary school in the country should have. It’s cheap, playful and good-looking. It is a simple building, made of robust materials, with a welcoming presence which announces itself open to everyone. The theatre has a sprung timber floor and 180 retractable seats. It is well insulated against sound. 

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Two simple moves transformed the relationship between the building and its site.  The foyer’s full-height glazing opens up a corner of building, establishing sightlines between the building’s interior and the neighbourhood. We also created a new public space in front of the building by repositioning the existing railings back from the pavement line site boundary, forming a playable breathing space and a place for public performance.

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The theatre re-purposes a redundant dole office, which our client was determined to demolish until we pointed out the viability of renovation and re-use. The existing pre-fab was stripped back, retaining its foundations, concrete frame and external blockwork walls. It was then re-roofed with profiled aluminium and overclad with vertical timber battens over foil-faced insulation. The new glassed foyer walls were fixed directly into existing concrete frames. 

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Architect: Ash Sakula

Client: Leicester City Council

Funding: Spaces for Sport and Arts

Gross internal floor area: 454m2

Refurbishment: 250m2

New build: 190m2

Cost: £0.66m 

Completion: 2004 

Construction: May 2003 and January 2004

Awards

2004 RIBA Award

2004 Cabinet Office Exemplar Project