“The Centre will build on the legacy associated with Lord Attenborough of liberal values, radical action, empowerment, and a passion for the humanities animated through performance, film and media.”
University of Sussex
The Gardner Arts Centre, built in 1969 and designed by Sir Basil Spence but closed since 2007 is being given a new lease of life as the Attenborough Centre for Creative Arts, an interdisciplinary arts hub for the University of Sussex named in honour of the late Lord Attenborough.
The design team, alongside English Heritage have revisited Sean Kenny’s visionary auditorium and stage design to safeguard its legacy into the 21st century.
The auditorium is supremely flexible, to support traditional drama, dance, choral and chamber music to the most cutting-edge and experimental of modern, multi-media installation/performance. It has flexible seating and staging that allow it to be varied between end-stage, trust-stage, in-the-round and flat floor configurations and the acoustical design must take into account this flexibility, being clear and intelligible for the spoken word, but maximising the potential for acoustical warmth for the blending of musical and choral performance.
This project poses many acoustical challenges. Amongst them being the circular geometry of the main theatre space, and adjacent “ear” spaces co-incident with it, and desire of English Heritage that the “feel” of the drum form within the auditorium be retained. Acoustical surfaces within this form are carefully designed and positioned to avoid damaging acoustical focusing effects.
Space limitations, the load bearing capabilities of the existing structure, project budget and building conservation considerations meant that the proposals for essential improvements in vertical and horizontal sound separation were a careful balancing act.
The finished building is flexible, practical and functional and supportive of the myriad uses that the students and community will demand of it now and into the future.
Please press play to watch an impressive video fly-through rendered during design: