Dramaturgical sequence of spaces: Performing Arts Centre in Cambridge
Client: The Perse School
Architect: Haworth Tompkins
Location: Hills Road, Cambridge, CB2 8QF (GB)
On arriving at the campus, visitors follow a paved pathway that leads past an area of lawn to the building’s entrance door, set in a slanted corner of the podium level. Above this rises an impressive glazed facade, behind it a wooden structured ceiling that already draws attention from the outside.
Foyer and mezzanine galleries
In everyday school life the generously-proportioned foyer area serves students and staff as a recreational and café area. A circumferential mezzanine gallery in the space provides views down into the foyer and out of the building. In addition a number of seating places are provided in wall niches.
A particular eye-catcher consists of the textile artwork by the Scottish artist Victoria Morton, who worked in a didactic exchange with the pupils and designed the colourful wall hanging that connects the two levels of the foyer.
The 400-seat auditorium offers room for performances by the pupils. Technical equipment plays a reticent role in design terms, while the orange and yellow of the chairs in the tiered seating particularly stands out. Backstage dressing rooms and equipment facilities round off the room programme.
In the interests of sustainability a choice was made first and foremost of durable, natural construction materials such as timber, hand-moulded brick and pre-cast concrete parts. A large ground-source heat pump ensures that the building requires only minimal energy inputs. The Classics Department has a green roof, and photovoltaic modules are mounted above the auditorium section. The foyer has large windows in the foyer that automatically open and close depending on the weather and the outdoor temperature, ensuring natural ventilation.
The Performing Arts Centre has been named after the late National Theatre director Peter Hall, who once attended the private school.