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New Theatre for Queen's University Belfast

Part 1 Project 2002
Kyle Buchanan
Justin Rooney
Queen's University Belfast, UK
My approach at the outset was to contemplate the important issues and assign them complementing concepts. The architecture occurring in emotional and pragmatic response to context, brief and my identified aesthetic. Creating a layered whole.

A large portion of accommodation is underground. Leaving an appropriate plinth like volume. The main performance space is flanked by a shear concrete structure forming compartments for the surrounding spaces. The fabric then wraps as the main performance space is wrapped. Glass on the facades, acrylic on the roof. Black where solid, clear where opening. The building by day is a black box. Reflecting its context, passers-by, the sky and weather.

A shading canopy claims space to guide visitors to a projecting glass box, breaking the rigor to reinforce the entrance. A curved box desk funnels students and players to their spaces. The audience is opened to their stair and down into a long social concourse then performance. This concourse faces university road one of Belfast’s busiest pedestrian thoroughfares and receives evening sun. Where the structural geometry has been compromised in providing this space differing qualities of light and shade shape the compartments.

A sunken space is accessed from the concourse and greenroom. It is formed by “pulling the rug” from beneath the theatre. The structural geometry expressing itself first as this, some wildflower planting surrounds the war memorial before an escape from gravity sees the geometry support a glass canopy. This canopy will shelter, can hold performances within its bounds or frame a show to the lawn.

Kyle Buchanan
Justin Rooney

This scheme is for a new student theatre for Queens University. It is a “real” brief, developed in conjunction with the Drama department. Justin’s scheme proposes an intelligent, thoughtful and provocative response to the question of how to build on one of Belfast’s most precious and revered spaces.

A rigid geometric order is imposed on the building, which generates plan, section and elevation. The building is low, and so the roof is treated as elevation.

The proposal is evasive, blank and silent by day, at night it transforms to reveal a rich inner life, which engages with the pavement, and with the city at many levels.

Space is intelligently manipulated and the scheme is designed so that lighting and staging may alter the internal atmosphere of the public spaces. The building is therefore “theatrical” and defines its own role within the city.

The scheme developed to extend its order on the strip of land along the front of the Lanyon building – the central focus of the university precinct. A subtle and consistent proposal, which achieves the aim of making an external space which can become a useful one for the university and city.

The scheme is well resolved and addresses the main issues of site and brief. Imagery is used to evoke the nature of the building architecturally and experientially. In design and graphic terms it constitutes a mature and developed piece of work. Even when measured against some post-graduate work.

Dr Peg Rawes
Mr Mark Smout
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