Proud of its track record in providing world-class modern facilities for students, the University of Wolverhampton looks forward to the imminent opening of its most recent, vibrant addition: The Performance Hub.
Costing a total of £18m the project has been completed on an impressive 15 month timescale and is sure to be worth every penny. Begun by main contractors Vinci Construction in May 2010, the new facility on the university’s Walsall Campus will be used by the School of Sports, Performing Arts and Leisure, as well as the wider community. It will provide state of the art teaching resources, practice rooms for a variety of arts disciplines and also incorporate some staff offices.
The development will allow flexibility for teaching, learning and research provision, space efficiency will allow students to learn as they perform, thus providing an enriched student experience, enabling Wolverhampton to consolidate its reputation as an institute offering top class performing arts courses.
This development follows the opening of a new Education and Teaching building in 2008, and is set to live up to its name, becoming the new epicentre at the heart of the campus. It incorporates a new Learning Centre for the use of the entire student body, which incorporates several self-contained glass pods for one-to-one and small group study, in contrast to the large performing-arts work spaces.
Moreover, the University hopes that The Performance Hub will become a landmark focal point in Walsall, attracting the most talented applicants for the courses on offer. The University of Wolverhampton’s website describes the result of the project as a ‘major boost to the creative industries’, and speaks of its contribution to a ‘cultural regeneration’ in Walsall and the surrounding region.
Architects on the projects were Birmingham-based Associated Architects, whose design utilises the basement area of the facilities which previously occupied the site. The Performance Hub is a steel-frame construction on a blue brick plinth. Its L-shaped footprint is divided into two main wings which are linked by a full-height atrium which is lit by an impressive, fully-glazed elevation. Bridges across the atrium and pre-cast concrete staircases link the different wings, while use of various flooring throughout the building suggests circulation, uniting the various spaces and functions of the structure.
Performance spaces are housed in the West Wing, including a modern, black-box theatre and other individual box-in-box constructions, a design which will allow a high level of soundproofing between the separate structures. One of the main challenges of the project was the inclusion of rooms for many apparently conflicting purposes in such close proximity to one another, such as recording studios next to music practice suites.
Balfour Beatty was awarded the £2.9m contract to provide mechanical, electrical and plumbing services. This included installing a specialist acoustic attenuation system in the 108-seat theatre, and also fitted power supplies for a theatrical lighting rig as part of the contract.
The building is designed to inspire diverse uses of the larger areas. The main theatre contains retractable seating which can be set up in a variety of ways, while it is envisaged that the atrium will be used not only as a general entrance, information and vending point, but as an impromptu performance area, and walls are cladded in wooden slatting to optimize the acoustics for such an event. The idea of diversity is reflected throughout the building, by such features as the variety of lighting, including some large, naturally-lit areas, where the sunlight is maximized by light furnishings, but shaded in part by building signage to avoid over-heating. These spaces contrast with the darkly-painted, artificially-lit studios.
Exterior landscaping by Gillespies included both soft landscaping and the creation of 50 new car-parking spaces on the site, which has been built where old 1960s residences and a teaching block have been demolished. Although the original building was deemed ‘iconic’ in the local landscape, the University of Wolverhampton hopes that this new building will soon gain a similar status and will be appreciated by the local community, on top of its use by students.
The construction has been built in line with BREEAM ‘excellent’ criteria.
Vinci Construction UK is a part of the worldwide VINCI Plc, the worldwide construction firm and supplier of concessions. The firm sponsored a preview event on July 7th, ahead of the opening of the building in September.