Amoeba-shaped windows puncture the conventional rectangular shape of The Public, allowing a glimpse into an offbeat, complex internal layout. Conceived by Will Alsop, this landmark provides a sustainable, community-based arts centre in a dynamic series of spaces.
Designed with the local community in mind and framed around a series of public workshops, the layout is such that visitors can pass through without the formal and cultural barriers that a more traditional venue might impose. Though the concept was straightforward, the building is a showcase of architectural exuberance which we sought to simplify structurally wherever possible.
In terms of foundations, a piled solution was chosen as a result of a favourable cost analysis, with a concrete ground floor slab above. Steel was chosen for the superstructure within two independent systems. Internally, a central row of tapering ‘H’-frames supports the roof and floors as well as the artistic ‘pods’, moulded from timber and fibreglass, scattered throughout the building. We connected the frames at third floor and roof levels; three reinforced concrete stair cores add further stability to the frame. Another layer of steel then forms a box around this to bear the weight of the cladding.
The ‘pods’, which break through the building’s external shell, required various treatments, dependent on their function. ‘The Pebble’, for example, a rounded shape which houses plant rooms and toilet facilities close to the main atrium, is clad in stainless steel both inside and out. For the theatre, designed for a wide range of events, we engineered a double-skinned casing to ensure acoustic separation from the main building. Work spaces shaped into fifteen ‘lily pads’ on the top floor are suspended from the roof structure above, clad in white GRP and connected via lightweight bridges.
Bright and quirky centre in West Bromwich, hosting community and business facilities
West Bromwich, UK
c/Plex, A & S
£ 63 million