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.

2006 Sustainable Living, Best Built Project

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.

Client: Leicester City Council

Gross internal floor area: 454m2

Refurbishment: 250m2

New build: 190m2

Cost: £0.66m

Completion: 2004