A new type of social building for cultural activities will be erected in Colchester: firstsite:newsite will have a significant artistic, architectural and social impact, presenting new work in new ways to capture the imagination of artists and audiences alike. To be located within the context of Roman ruins, the building will relate to the historic assets of Colchester, while its crescent shape will assist in the utilization of the site’s full potential and the employment of natural daylighting, ventilation and resources.
The design incorporates a permeable ground level with multiple entrances and an exterior public ramp, thus incorporating the exterior program with the building and promoting activity and use by all. Thus, the building sits lightly on the land to allow archaeological exploration beneath, and its base includes amenities such as a caf and gift shop. The area north of the building is an actively programmed public art space, while the southern zone is a landscaped space between the building and the historic Roman Wall. Local discoveries will be exhibited in indoor and outdoor public spaces.
The gallery level is defined by a varied materials palette that includes exposed timber, concrete and architectural woodwork. The typical white box is turned inside out through the incorporation of natural light and sweeping views of the park into the program. In addition, interaction between visitors, artists-in-residence and students is promoted through the flexible design of the spaces adjacent to the galleries, which can be opened to the galleries, and can encompass education, artist residencies and presentation. Exhibition space will be dedicated to the presentation of local, national and international artists, and the University of Essex collection of Latin American art. Furthermore, conference and administration facilities will be included in the program, and will also enjoy dramatic views of the landscape.
Architect: Rafael Vinoly