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The Performing Arts Centre for Nottingham Girls' High School is an innovative new build construction housing a 334 seat auditorium, foyer, dance rehearsal spaces and back of house facilities. 

The client’s brief called for a flexible multipurpose auditorium, large enough to house year group assemblies and for the building to allow the teaching of stage-craft in all its forms, in a safe environment for students.  The auditorium provides a variety of layouts through the use of floor lifts and is divisible into two separate teaching / performance spaces.  A tension wire grid allows safe access to lighting rigs and industry standard equipment ensures that teaching is relevant beyond the school.

Sustainability has been a key facet of the design of the Performing Arts Centre from the outset and is integral to the form of the building.  The principle of a naturally ventilated auditorium was suggested in the early stages of the design and embraced by the client to minimise noise, energy use and maintenance.  The large supply and extract air vents required are expressed externally as are the sloping roofs which channel air movement within the building.

In the auditorium, untreated timber and clay plaster act hygroscopically and combined with high thermal mass in the building structure help to regulate the auditorium environment with a full audience.

Natural and locally sourced materials have been utilised wherever possible, for example the new sandstone wall which is a key design feature of Addison Street and the surrounding area.  Material choice has been assessed against the processes used in production, versus the performance in use, to balance the least damaging specification against the optimum performance.

Natural day lighting has been maximised wherever possible to reduce energy use.  A ground source heat pump provides heating and passive cooling, while building monitoring and automatic sensor operation ensures that the building’s environment remains comfortable.

The Arts Centre sits at the boundary of the school site, adjacent to residential properties and as such, issues of noise and overlooking were key to the design.  Attenuation was incorporated to prevent noise break out and windows angled to reduce impact on neighbours.  The building height was stepped down towards the adjacent residential properties.

Construction took 86 weeks, which included substantial ground works and a complex steel frame.  Programme and budget were tightly controlled by the design team in this traditional contract.

In terms of social sustainability, the new Performing Arts Centre has allowed NGHS to build on their existing school outreach programme and has forged links with its neighbours and the local arts community.  These key end users are also involved in the building's management and programming to ensure that the PAC continues to be an inclusive and sustainable resource for all, raising aspirations for school students and the wider Nottingham community.

Client: Girls' Day School Trust

Completed: 2016

Images by Louise Dunn

Nottingham Girls' High School
Performing Arts Centre

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