From our concept sketches dating back to 2010, Western Design Architects are pleased to announce that detailed planning approval has finally been granted for a new arts centre in Blandford.
Blandford is currently the only market town in Dorset that does not have its own dedicated Arts Centre. WDA have teamed up with a number of organisations to gain this approval to bring a new community venue to the town.
The planning process was complex with the involvement of Historic England due to the sensitivity of the Burgage plot location. Due to the project being completely funded through charities and grants, the brief required that part of the building had to be constructed out of natural and sustainable resources. WDA developed and refined the original contemporary concept scheme resulting in the building using a unique construction method with a mix of straw bale walls within a theatrical rigging structure.
Due to this unique and complex brief, the project was used as a design competition for architecture students from the Arts University Bournemouth allowing WDA to offer design guidance and mentoring whilst giving the students' ideas an opportunity to be incorporated into a live project during their studies.
Externally the new art centre makes use of traditional heritage area materials such as brick, timber and slate but with the addition of large glazed panels to the front elevation. This will allow natural light to flood the entrance space whilst also adding a modern twist to the traditional burgage plot building. To give the building a rustic aesthetic and also help it to tie in with its brief of using local resources, the timber cladding will all be reclaimed from around Dorset and the bricks will be reclaimed from the site itself where new openings are being made in the existing boundary wall. This will also enhance the contrast between the old and new elements of the building, relating it to the history of the site and allowing it to sit comfortably in its setting.
The new building consists mainly of a theatre space inclusive of a stage, backstage changing rooms and a projection/tech room. It also contains a box office, café/bar and toilet facilities. The café/bar area includes seating inside and also an external patio seating area to the front which will be open for use throughout the day as well as during evening entertainments. The theatre space provides 180 seats, of which 80 are removable more flexible event space to be rented out.
The scheme is currently at fundraising stage to raise money for the remaining aspects of the construction and running costs of the building. We look forward to progressing forward with this exciting project to bring a new art centre and social hub to Blandford.