Situated in a deprived area of Leicester, the Peepul Centre realises the vision of a group of over 5,000 women in this Midlands city, to represent the Asian community with an innovative community centre that combines an auditorium, family health centre and gymnasium, internet café and restaurant.
The brief for London-based Andrzej Blonski Architects was to create a form that brought together a wide range of facilities in two separate wings, using a curved, central triple-storey atrium. This foyer, encircled by a floating staircase that connects the different levels, fills the centre of the building with light, highlighting local artwork on the concrete ground floor slab.
By designing reinforced concrete flat slabs and concrete columns throughout, we established coherency in the structure despite its variety of uses, and maximised its thermal mass; grids varied from 6 to 9 m, dependent on the usage and room sizes required.
The 350-seat theatre required additional acoustic attenuation, so we formed a concrete shell around it, which insulated the walls and roof. We wanted to enable the space to be used both as a theatre with tiered seating and as a flat floor area, so we considered a number of options for raising the seating to ceiling level. The chosen method, using two motorised pulley chains fixed to the auditorium roof trusses instead of moving counterweights, was the most space-efficient and the simplest for the end user.
The façades were detailed to differentiate between the various internal areas and react sympathetically to surrounding structures. At ground floor level there is continuity between the various sections, with fair-faced concrete panels used throughout the building. The upper levels of the Family Wing, adjacent to the atrium, are clad in grit-blasted concrete, exposing fine sparkle aggregate. Sober concrete is softened by randomly arranged coloured glazing, as well as white render in the auditorium wing, and grey render for the theatre.
Innovative community centre to represent the Asian community in Leicester
Andrzej Blonski Architects
£ 9 million