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Burrell Foley Fischer designs community cinema in former brewery

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Originally a sorting office before being taken over by Harvey’s brewery, this local landmark in the Lewes Conservation Area was in a derelict state

Recognising the structure’s opportunity for reuse, Lewes Community Screen commissioned Burrell Foley Fischer to restore and open up the former brewery depot with the introduction of a three-screen community cinema.

The screens themselves (with 140, 129 and 37 seats) have been inserted into the existing warehouse building, while a new glazed extension houses the box office, a café/bar, restaurant, and film education and training facilities including a small film library and study space, and a multi-use room. The former tarmacked service yard has been landscaped to provide a new public space, including local plant species and a small orchard and wildflower meadow.

Bff the depot lewes ©hufton+crow 013

Bff the depot lewes ©hufton+crow 013

Source: Hufton + Crow

The project was privately funded and aims to make a positive contribution to the South Downs National Park. The extension’s walls make use of local flint craftsmanship, and the roof also features flint paving and a green roof planted with chalk-loving plants found in the park. There was extensive consultation with local access groups over providing a welcoming facility, and there is space within the foyer to mount temporary exhibitions in addition to the permanent display of Stephen Chambers’ The Big Country. The acoustic wall panels in the screens are digitally printed with a reproduction of figures painted on the walls of the depot by Julian Bell, when he used it as his studio prior to its conversion.

The project was recently recognised by the Sussex Heritage Trust Awards, where it was a winner of the Public and Community Award. The judges commented: ‘The Depot Cinema has reused a redundant warehouse and extended it to create a new townscape and community amenity performing functions far beyond the cinematic experience. The financial commitment was high and has enabled a completed project of exceptional attention to detail in every respect. The architect and the depot team are responsible for a stunning new gateway into Lewes.’

Client’s view

The proposal responds to the historic significance and character of its context, in both its architecture and landscape design, to deliver a valuable cultural and community facility that will be an asset to Lewes. The type and range of uses and the quality and flexibility of internal and external spaces will add to the town’s vibrancy as a cultural destination. The proposal will serve as an exemplar to illustrate how good design can rise to the challenge of a national park context and eloquently embody the statutory purposes and duty.

Ground floor plan

Ground floor plan

Ground floor plan

Project Data

Start on site September 2015
Completion May 2017
Gross internal floor area 1,105m²
Form of contract JCT 2011 Standard Building Contract
Project cost £8 million 
Project cost per m²
Architect Burrell Foley Fischer 
Client Lewes Community Screen
Structural engineer Price & Myers

M&E consultant SGA Consulting
Quantity surveyor/cost consultant Jackson Coles
Acoustic consultant Arup
CDM coordinator PFB Construction Management Services Ltd
Approved building inspector Lewes District Council Building Control
Main contractor Durtnell & Sons
CAD software used Vectorworks
Annual CO2 emissions 24.5kg/m²

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