Evans Vettori adopts triangular geometries to extend the Square Chapel arts centre in Halifax
Evans Vettori’s new addition to the Square Chapel Arts Centre in Halifax occupies a challenging site between the recently restored grade-one-listed Piece Hall and the grade-two-star listed Georgian Square Chapel. The former chapel was saved from dereliction by a community group in 1988, since when it has emerged as a thriving arts centre.
The architect won a national competition in 2005 to design a major extension to the arts centre, intending the design to be ‘of its time’, but drawing on the historic context. Just as the Square Chapel and Piece Hall buildings employed ‘cutting edge’ technologies of their time, the latest cladding, glazing and environmental technologies have been incorporated in the new extension.
The Piece Hall and Square Chapel were built within ten years of each other, although they shared no formal references. Both have clear axes, although these don’t align geometrically, and they are built in distinctly contrasting materials.
The extension helps knit together the existing urban fabric, with a physical link to the Piece Hall, while providing more space to relieve pressure on the previously undersized foyer. A new multi-use performance and workshop space allows the Square Chapel to increase the scope of its artistic activities. The more open ‘public’ foyer is intended to attract a larger and more diverse audience to the arts centre.
The triangular prism-shaped building links and resolves the geometry between the Piece Hall and Square Chapel. Level access is now provided into the foyer and both auditoria, as the length of the new building runs up the slope. The adjoining new auditorium occupies a copper box, which has already weathered to a deep tawny colour, establishing a visual relationship with Square Chapel.
The new auditorium is placed tightly on Blackledge to restore the historic sense of a narrow cobbled street. It sits on a monolithic plinth of local stone, and its raised terrace provides views across the valley towards Beacon Hill, while a new stone piazza, providing wheelchair access, has been created in front of the main entrance.