Corby Cube by Hawkins Brown 17.08.11

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Corby in Northamptonshire was, until recently, infamous for being the largest town in Britain without a railway station. But now its 50,000 residents have a new link to the rail network and a large number of accompanying improvements – including the Corby Cube, a £27 million civic and cultural centre by London-based architect Hawkins Brown.

Hawkins Brown won the competition for the civic centre back in 2004. The brief called for two buildings – a town hall and an arts complex – but the architect suggested combining all the proposed functions into a single structure. That way the building would be in use throughout the day and at weekends, and public use could bring a bit of democracy into the civic halls. The cuboid shape (and identity) arose from another piece of defiance in the face of the brief, which called for an "icon" for the town.

"Frank Gehry's Guggenheim has clearly regenerated Bilbao, but if you speak to the curators there, they hate the building, because there's no space for them to put art," says Roger Hawkins of Hawkins Brown. "So we argued that this almost needed to be an 'anti-icon' – it needed to be a really simple form to allow the functions to work efficiently inside."

The interior layout is more sophisticated than the plain shape, clad in alternating strips of black and reflective glass, suggests. There's a theatre on the ground floor and basement levels, a council "one-stop shop" on the first floor, the council chamber on the second floor and offices above. But these spaces are linked together by the library, which spirals all the way up the building, terminating in a roof garden.

"I said quite glibly that it's bigger on the inside, but that's important; it's like a Tardis when you go into it," says Hawkins. "People can't believe how much we fit into it. But I think it's bigger on the inside in terms of beauty being more than skin deep – it's got a big heart, and that's come from the process of design, and how we work."

 

Image

Hufton + Crow

 

Words

William Wiles

quotes story

I think it's bigger on the inside in terms of beauty being more than skin deep – it's got a big heart, and that's come from the process of design, and how we work

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