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River Rock Theatre, Holmfirth

Part 1 Project 2012
Leo Palmer
Sheffield Hallam University, UK
My initial studies of rocks and how erosion forms and influences them was inspired by visiting the site and looking at the relationship between the town and the river. The local history regarding the river is quite a turbulent one. Due to reliance on the river the town of Holmfirth is tightly nestled around it. This became a hazard as the dam above the town broke and caused several devastating floods to rip through the streets.

Though the past relationship to the river wasn’t always positive the state of the dams has greatly improved and the river very rarely breaks its banks now. I felt that the theatre should reflect this key element in the town’s history.

While visiting Holmfirth I felt that it lacked a central square which would really serve the pedestrian visitor. This was a good opportunity to do some urban design and encourage some commercial regeneration.

This new urban square is designed to encourage people to visit the square and the theatre. The original car park was at a slight gradient from the river to the main road. I decided to level this out so that the whole plot was level with the river. This connected both banks together creating a larger public space and provided a natural separation from the main road. This division was then bridged by the theatre itself.

The theatre has 2 key levels. The first level is the bar area. It is situated on the river level and is used throughout the day. It provides a link to the street level and can be opened up to the square to create a seamless social experience. On the next level is the auditorium which faces the street. The building is partially subterranean which means it is less imposing in the local architectural context.

The theatre sits at the top of the square. There are a number underpasses and routes which the public can use to access both the theatre and the square beyond. This encourages people to flow around the building, much like a river around rocks.

Leo Palmer


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