The Depot Cinema, Lewes shortlisted for an RIBA South East Regional RIBA Award

The Depot has been shortlisted for a Royal Institute of British Architects South East Regional Award. It is one of 14 projects shortlisted in the region, from 44 entries, and will now be visited by the Jury Panel, with the winners announced in May. 

James Robinson, RIBA Regional Director said of the shortlist: “We are very lucky to have such outstanding buildings on the shortlist this year. It’s been a good year. The standard and variety of the entries is very high; from small private houses to the larger public and institutional buildings. The shortlist also demonstrates the fantastic amount of design talent in and around the regions, in practices both large and small, local and working nationally or indeed, internationally.

“The region has an amazing architectural heritage with buildings that have the capacity to amaze, inspire and improve our quality of life. This year’s RIBA Awards shortlist and the winners we are about to celebrate, show that they are still being built.”

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3 new screens and new place in the community

The Depot is a new community cinema for the town of Lewes, in East Sussex, built on the site of the old Harvey's Brewery depot. It shows feature and independent art-house films, as well as hosting events, exhibitions and festivals, and provides facilities for film education and community activities. A café/bar and restaurant allow filmgoers to enjoy a drink or a bite to eat at all times of day.


BFF’s approach

Burrell Foley Fischer were commissioned by Lewes Community Screen, who built and operate the new venue. BFF’s radical approach was to retain the much loved existing warehouse building, a popular landmark in a prominent location close to the town’s railway station, and insert the three new screens (140, 129 and 37 seats) within it. A new glazed foyer houses the box office, café/bar, restaurant, and film education and training facilities, giving a contemporary setting with the former industrial building as a visible backdrop. Reflecting the historic site layout of orchards and meadows, the former tarmacked service yard is landscaped to provide a new public realm.  It includes native and local plant species providing seasonal colour and a small orchard and wild flower meadow. 

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The inspired brief

The Depot is a privately funded philanthropic project, delivered without any draw on public funding. The project aims to make a positive contribution to the South Downs National Park and to respond to its unique and special qualities. It is now a contemporary exemplar of local flint craftsmanship. Because of the topography of Lewes and the South Downs, particular thought was given to the design of the roofscape, which is visible as a fifth elevation, and it features flint paving and a green roof planted with chalk loving plants, all found in the SDNP. There was extensive consultation with local access groups to ensure a welcoming and accessible facility.


The screens and backdrop spaces

Screen 1 has a stage and the technical infrastructure for small scale comedy acts and music performances and live music events are held in the café/bar. Screen 3 is available for private screenings and events and benefits from its own bar/lounge. As well as a cinema, the Depot has a café/bar and restaurant open throughout the day. It provides a welcoming and safe environment for all sectors of the community and visitors to Lewes. Proximity to the station makes it accessible to visitors from the wider district. 

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Local creativity

As well as the use of local flint in the design the project also celebrates local creativity. The foyers can accommodate the mounting of temporary exhibitions in addition to the permanent display of Stephen Chambers ‘The Big Country’, which has been donated by the artist. The acoustic wall panels in Screens 1, 2 and 3 are digitally printed with a reproduction of the life-size animated figures painted on the walls of the Depot by Julian Bell, when he used it as his studio prior to its conversion. There are facilities for film education, including a small film library and study space, and a multi-use room with a flat floor that is used for a range of training and workshop events. The extensive external landscaping incorporates facilities for outdoor screenings and events.

New Housing for the London Borough of Islington at Dixon Clark Court granted Planning Permission

Planning Permission has been granted for BFF’s scheme for 41 new dwellings at Dixon Clark Court. The scheme is the latest in a succession of new build housing projects designed by BFF for Islington Council on areas of social housing identified as capable of being significantly improved as better places to live, with new homes and landscaping.

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The existing Dixon Clark Court estate consists of a single residential tower surrounded mostly by tarmac and concrete except for a fenced-off communal garden and a grassed area and trees that screen it from the busy Highbury Corner roundabout. Planned improvements by TfL and the London Borough of Islington will replace the existing roundabout to create a new publicly accessible Arboretum.

The 41 new apartments, 27 for social rent, are arranged in individual houses around the existing tower to place it in a mews setting. It will establish a new enhanced garden setting for the existing tower, and the existing 59 flats will have, for the first time, a directly accessible communal south-facing garden. The western boundary is to be defined by retaining the majority of existing mature trees, within an improved amenity garden accessible to residents and informally planted in a wild meadow style with some car parking alongside, just to meet the current need.

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A new residential building onto Canonbury Road frames the existing tower to give a new active street presence and entrance to the estate and some enclosure and shelter to the new internal, shared garden spaces.

The mews houses range in height from one to four storeys and contain a variety of unit types and sizes. These are planned with generous ‘through’ spaces between them with courtyard gardens and roof terraces.

These ‘through’ spaces allow the passage of light, air, and views and establish an individual identity and human scale for each group of dwellings, with ground level entrance doors. Views both in and out of the site will be experienced by Dixon Clark Court residents and the residents in the neighbouring buildings and the conservation area.

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The scheme provides 41 new dwellings, well within the permitted density for this city centre site, and there will be an increase in usable, ‘green’ ground-level space. There will be no demolition except for small stores that will be re-provided. Roof terrace areas and greened roof areas will be additional amenities. An added bonus is that the garden spaces are directly accessible from all of the dwellings, making them more practical and likely to be used. A significant increase in the number of trees on the site is planned to provide shade and variety, and to define new spaces. These will more than compensate and exceed the few trees lost as a result of the proposals.

Commendation for Depot at Selwyn Goldsmith Award for Universal Design

We are delighted that the Depot, Lewes, was awarded a Commendation in this year’s Selwyn Goldsmith Award for Universal Design. The cinema was selected as just one of three projects to be recognised in this category, from the 234 projects entered into the 2018 Civic Trust Awards. The Commendation states that 'the design, layout and location of the Cinema maximises inclusive access in all respects', and that it 'provides welcoming and accessible, cultural and social facilities for visitors across the age and social spectrum regardless of abilities'.

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The Depot is a new three-screen community cinema on the site of the modest but much loved existing warehouse of the old Harveys brewery depot in Lewes. The three screens have been discreetly inserted within the saved brick shell, with the major design move being to attach a new glazed extension with the depot structure fully visible as the historic backdrop to the new box office, café bar, restaurant.

The Selwyn Goldsmith Award for Universal Design is given to projects which have demonstrated excellence in providing a scheme which is accessible for all users, from people with decreased mobility, to parents with small children, to people with sensory impairments and everything in-between. 

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This award recognises BFF's long-standing commitment to inclusive design. Previous BFF cinemas that have won accessibility awards include Broadway, Nottingham’s Media Centre, which was given an Adapt award in 1998 and Norwich Cinema City which won the East of England LABC Award in 2008 for Best Project for Access and Compliance with Disability Regulations and went on to win the National award for that year.  Most recently Newlyn Filmhouse was awarded Best Inclusive Building at the South West LABC (Local Authority Building Control) Awards 2017.

Slab completed for new arts centre at Sherborne Girls

The main contractor has been making good progress on the new Arts Centre for Sherborne Girls over the past few weeks, and the concrete was poured for the main slab over half term week. The next stage is for the CLT (Cross Laminated Timber) sections to arrive from the production plant in Austria and be erected.

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The new Arts Centre, located at the heart of the campus, will comprise a new recital hall with 300 fixed seats (or capacity for 560 for school assembly). A multifunctional link building will provide a social space for exhibitions, display space to showcase talented artists, host talks by guest speakers, match teas and social events, whilst anchoring the new performing arts centre to the existing Art Building and Music Department. Once the new Arts Centre is complete, the music school will relocate and the Student Centre will be converted into the new Drama School.

Hall For Cornwall refurbishment to commence this summer

Hall For Cornwall has announced that, this June, they will close for an ambitious and much-needed refurbishment of their theatre, seeking to safeguard the heritage of the building and transform the venue into a dynamic and high-quality environment that will give the people of Cornwall access to the best performing arts to rival any city in the country.

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After six years of planning, the funding is now in place to enable this exciting project to move forward, which will see the auditorium increase in size, enabling the theatre to attract top West End shows and promote and support creative talent, alongside developing their work with schools and young people. In addition, new cafés and bars, a Heritage Lottery funded project and new digital creative business hub, will combine to create a venue that will continue to inspire, educate and be enjoyed.

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Upon the foundations of the existing site, the project, designed by Burrell Foley Fischer, will unearth the history and heritage of the Grade II* listed building and create a new theatre within, alongside an improved café, bar and public spaces. The theatre's new home will be a vital community asset and one which will continue to inspire, engage, educate entertain and challenge all audiences, firmly placing them at the heart of Truro’s cultural and economic offering and securing their long-term future. Support has come from the government, along with Arts Council England, Cornwall Council, the Heritage Lottery Fund, European Regional Development Funding (ERDF) and, most recently, the Cornwall Local Enterprise Partnership.

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Their final and celebratory performance, with Local Cornish band The People’s String Foundation Orchestra, will conclude the current chapter in Hall For Cornwall's history will be Saturday 2 June 2018. It is anticipated that the newly refurbished theatre will open 2020.

Depot, Lewes Community Screen is nominated for prestigious planning industry award

Depot, Lewes Community Screen has been announced as a finalist in the category for Excellence for Planning in Heritage and Culture at the Royal Town Planning Institute’s (RTPI) Awards for Planning Excellence 2018. The RTPI Awards are the most established and respected awards in the UK planning industry. Running for over 40 years, they celebrate exceptional examples of planning and the contribution planners make to society.

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The transformation of the former Harvey’s brewery depot in Lewes, a prominent location close to the railway station, into a major arts venue - with a cinema, restaurant and education facilities known as ‘Depot, Lewes Community Screen’ - has already been crowned the overall winner at the RTPI South East Awards for Planning Excellence and has now been shortlisted for a national award.

The previously vacant site is in a prominent, sensitive location within Lewes Conservation Area, the South Downs National Park, and surrounded by numerous listed buildings, which has been sensitively redeveloped to provide a new community 3-screen cinema with a café/bar, restaurant and film education and training facilities. The redevelopment, designed by Burrell Foley Fischer, also includes new green infrastructure including an orchard, wild flower garden and landscaping.

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John Acres MRTPI, President of the Royal Town Planning Institute said:

“This year’s finalists reflect the important contribution planners and planning makes to creating great places and tackling the challenges we face across the UK. Planners are taking on new and innovative projects and the finalists show they are succeeding. It’s a huge achievement just to be shortlisted this year given the 6% rise in entries to the awards and the high calibre of entries will make judging very difficult.”

The winners will be announced during a ceremony held at Milton Court at The Barbican, London on 24 May 2018.

Learn more about the finalists here.

New Boarding House for Tring Park School on site

A new Boarding House, the next phase of Burrell Foley Fischer’s masterplan for Tring Park School for the Performing Arts is now on site. This is the next stage in the school’s development plan, which began with Park Studios, five new build studios for dance and performing arts, set within the historic context of Registered Parks and Gardens and Grade II* listed buildings in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

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Announcing the news on their website the school commented: “Over a decade ago, the school’s governors recognised that it needed to invest in facilities to keep it at the leading edge of performing arts schools for the next century. Recent alumni have benefited from the award-winning Park Studios, which opened in 2011 to great acclaim, and transformed the life of the school. The new master plan, which consists of three main phases, aims to further enhance the school experience for future talented students.

The first phase – which started in January 2018 - is a building consisting of three floors plus a lower ground floor, which will contain a state-of-the-art boarding house for 70 pupils, six academic and vocational teaching spaces, a theatre workshop and other valuable pupil facilities. This exciting new building is due to open in September 2019.”

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Pictured below is the groundbreaking ceremony with the Principal, Stefan Anderson, Deputy Principal, Anselm Barker, Jim Twitchin (Head of Estate Services), Kate Jarratt (Management Accountant) and the 2017/18 Head Girl and Head Boy.

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Depot is a winner in the Selwyn Goldsmith Awards for Universal Design

We are excited to have been informed that the Depot has been selected as one of just three winners in this year’s Selwyn Goldsmith Awards for Universal Design. The project was selected from 234 applications entered into the 2018 Civic Trust Awards and the presentation will take place at the Awards Ceremony at Old Trafford next March.

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The Depot is a new three-screen community cinema on the site of the modest but much loved existing warehouse of the old Harveys brewery depot in Lewes. The three screens have been discreetly inserted within the saved brick shell, with the major design move being to attach a new glazed extension with the depot structure fully visible as the historic backdrop to the new box office, café bar, restaurant. A Facebook user commented, First visit yesterday, knocks spots off of the commercial cinemas, architecture beautiful, seats very comfortable and screen better than I have seen before. This feels like an upmarket cinema not a community/charity. The place has a soul!

The Selwyn Goldsmith Award for Universal Design is given to projects which have demonstrated excellence in providing a scheme which is accessible for all users, from people with decreased mobility, to parents with small children, to people with sensory impairments and everything in-between. 

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The vision for the project was to provide welcoming and accessible, cultural and social facilities for residents of Lewes and the surrounding region, as well as for visitors, and to engage with audiences and users of the facilities across the age and social spectrum, and regardless of abilities. To this end, local access groups were actively engaged with the project from early design stages and through construction and provided guidance on often little understood issues, such as design for people with dementia, for whom there are special screenings. There are also parent and baby screenings, for which buggy storage is available.

The equipping of the cinema auditoria with digital projection and technology has provided a facility for audio description and subtitles, which can be delivered to personal smart phones. There is infrared within the cinema and induction loops at sales points.

Physical access to all facilities has been incorporated in the design from the point of arrival. There are two on-site disabled parking bays and ramped access to the main entrance from entrance gates on both Pinwell Road South and West. Contrasting paving along the edge of the wheelchair friendly resin bonded gravel paths and ramps, helps to guide blind and visually impaired visitors to the main entrance. There are automatic sliding doors to the main entrance. All sales points are designed to accommodate wheelchair users.

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Accessible toilets have been integrated with the toilets for the restaurant, and general visitor toilets.  Within the two main cinema auditoria a choice of wheelchair positions has been provided, which are not limited to the front rows, and are integrated with the main body of seating, enabling wheelchair users to sit next to able bodied companions. There is space for guide dogs.

Careful consideration was given in the interior decoration to providing the appropriate level of contrast between elements such as handrails and the surfaces they are against, and door leafs and door linings, to aid people with visual impairment. Braille signage is provided throughout.

The overall result provides an equally uplifting inclusive and enjoyable experience of the Depot for everyone who comes there.