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Amsterdam’s krft wins Brighton College theatre contest

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Emerging Dutch practice krft has won an international competition to design a 3,000m² mixed-use performance arts centre at private school Brighton College 

The Amsterdam-based firm – co-founded by Oscar Vos and Thomas Dieben in 2015 – saw off entries from US architect Morphosis, German practice Sauerbruchhutton, Dutch architect Mecanoo and the UK’s Haworth Tompkins.

The project – krft’s first in the UK – is for a 400-seat theatre complex on a site between the school’s Gilbert Scott-designed Main Building and a sports and science block by OMA, which is under construction.

The performance arts centre is the latest high-profile project to arise from a series of invited international competitions held for the Brighton co-ed boarding and day school’s £100 million investment programme.

Hopkins Architects completed the school’s £9.5 million Kai Yong Yeoh Building in 2017 while a music school by Eric Parry Architects opened in 2015. Other recent additions to the Grade II-listed Victorian campus have included an arts centre by Tim Ronalds Architects and a boarding house and student common room by Allies and Morrison. 

The architects’ view

krft's competition-winning proposal for a new 3,000m² mixed-use performance arts centre at Brighton College in West Sussex

krft’s competition-winning proposal for a new 3,000m² mixed-use performance arts centre at Brighton College in West Sussex

krft’s competition-winning proposal for a new 3,000m² mixed-use performance arts centre at Brighton College in West Sussex

For the competition, the college asked for a mixed-use educational building, named Project 175, in which all performing arts would take place, with a theatre hall as heart of the building. The competition required a 3,000m² building, including a 400-seat theatre hall, on a small site, in between the listed Gilbert Scott-designed Main Building and the new Sports & Science building by OMA.

In its response, krft moved the theatre hall upwards, floating above a multi-oriented foyer space, making connections to all outdoor spaces surrounding the site. This emphasises the building as a pivot point for all movement around the campus and avoids any possible ‘backsides’ of the building. The studio spaces, positioned in an underground level, use their double height to capture daylight and views from the ground floor and lift up the foyer space to the upper ’Home Ground’ level.

In its architecture, the building tries to bridge the monumental with the contemporary. The building rises up as a white chalk cliff from the green campus space. The facade, mixing contemporary light brickwork with darker traditional flint bridges the different characters of the surrounding campus.

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