Brick headers stacked on top of each other form the facade of the new extension to the historic Bluecoat Arts Centre in Liverpool. Rotterdam-based BIQ Architecten was commissioned to add a new block on the site of the East Wing – destroyed during World War Two – and to renovate the interior of the original Bluecoat, which dates back to 1716.
“The main inspiration for our design was really the existing building itself,” says Hans van der Heijden, head architect of the project. “We were interested in the fact that it was made of brick, which is very much a material that belongs to Liverpool, so we decided to make it our central material” explains Heijden.
Throughout the building there is a sense of continuity between old and new. Aside from using brick, BIQ decided to keep certain geometric patterns, such as number of windows and the space between them, while crafting it with a modern twist, for example creating very high windows. A Latin inscription heralding the date and name of the arts centre runs across two granite slabs which cover the Eastern facade meeting at a right angle. “The idea is that the new wing feels like a natural extension of the old”, explains Heijden. “We want it to be respectful of its past and its context in Liverpool.”
Brick recurs throughout the building, both inside, where it is whitewashed, and outside. The structure spreads over two floors, creating much-needed exhibition and performance space. BIQ discarded the design of a traditional inward looking theatre, giving importance instead to light, both in the form of the white walls and the natural light which seeps in via a skylight running the entire length of the building.
“Overall, we have tried to give this feeling of solidity to the building”, explains Heijden. “Our design tries to be something different, robust. We want it to say, it’s here to stay.”
images Richard Bryant