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Architectural Emporium transforms industrial spaces into a new home for theatre company

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The spaces provide Walk the Plank theatre company with a combined office and production facility in Salford

Architectural Emporium has completed the first purpose-built outdoor arts hub in the UK, a new home for Walk the Plank, a group of artists, producers and educators.

Having already moored the UK’s first ‘Theatre Ship’, the Fitzcarraldo at Salford Quays in 1992, Walk The Plank wanted a space to unite their delivery, maker and management teams.

01 wtp location plan

Walk the Plank by Architecture Emporium, location plan

Two existing premises have been consolidated at a single refurbished site in Salford, where four workshop bays had previously been used by a steel manufacturer. Architectural Emporium removed the roof from one of the workshop bays to create a courtyard linking the refurbished workshop and training bays to a new build office and meeting room.

Architect’s view

While it was initially difficult for some to envisage a creative space in this harsh landscape, the client was perfectly placed to convey their vision in a convincing and inspirational way. Their number one goal was to reunite the company after having been on a split-site in the years since they left the Fitzcarraldo and find somewhere they could all call home again. The physical distance between the management and creative departments and the makers and technical department was not conducive to a collaborative artistic environment.

The inspiration for the form of the new build element has come from the rhythm of the existing buildings along that side of Cobden Street, particularly the existing warehouse roofline on site. The shape tips down towards the south to allow the windows along this façade to dip under the eaves of the adjacent bay whilst remaining at its full height to the north, creating a dynamic internal space. The structural solution leads to the distinctive angled central pole reminiscent of a ship’s mast. This additional height creates a natural chimney or stack effect, drawing air in from the courtyard and out of the skylight.

Courtyard 1

Walk the Plank by Architecture Emporium

The new building is clad in high-performance sinusoidal metal cladding panels, which match the colour and tone of the existing cladding on the refurbished areas of the building. The sinusoidal form of the cladding creates a subtly different, cleaner and more contemporary take on the existing building cladding material. An external entrance tunnel creates a bridge between the path and internal entrance corridor, and is clad in steel panels allowed to paternate naturally in situ, as well as a reclaimed Douglas fir cobble floor. The deep red ceiling of the entrance corridor beyond can be viewed through the fully glazed entrance.

The main welfare facilities run alongside the entrance corridor, all hidden behind a wall of marine-grade birch-faced plywood which is set out to ensure all openings are carefully thought through, with matching ply returns or oversailing panels to ensure skirting boards have a natural end. The corridor is split into two by a fully glazed Sapele door giving access to the more private areas of the building. The first glimpse of the courtyard is from a set back seating area directly opposite the large picture frame window beyond the doorway.

06 wtp section

06 wtp section

At the other side of the courtyard another of the original bays has been converted into a large training space with oversized glazed double doors onto the courtyard to further enhance the connection to the outside. The floor is painted in a bright yellow, highly durable resin-based paint to bring the space to life, while the old timber roof structure is left exposed creating a highly flexible, multipurpose theatrical space for learning, making and events.

Project data

Start on site 3 October 2016
18 August 2017
Gross internal floor area 1,062m²
Form of contract Traditional – JCT IFC
Construction cost £879,000
Construction cost per m²
 £251 (refurbished areas) £1,791 (extension)
Architectural Emporium
Walk the Plank
Structural engineer 
Elliot Bond Consulting
M&E consultant Watermans Building Services
Quantity surveyor Modero
Project manager 
Through and Around
CDM coordinator
Approved building inspector 
Building Consents
Main contractor Skyline Property Solutions
CAD software used Vectorworks
Estimated annual CO2 emissions 28,352KWh/m18kg/m2

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