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Everyman Theatre, Liverpool, UK

Issue 82 December / January 2014 : Retail : Theatre


To be associated with a RIBA Stirling Prize winner is an incredible honour for any lighting designer, and so when Everyman won this year’s award, DHA Designs was naturally thrilled.

Awarded to the architects of the building that has made the greatest contribution to British architecture in the past year, the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Stirling Prize Award is considered one of the most prestigious architecture prizes in the world. Winner of this year’s Stirling Prize, Liverpool’s new Everyman theatre has seen more than 30,000 people through its doors since it opened in March and RIBA judges have described the theatre as: “An extraordinary contribution to both theatre and the city, achieved through clever team working - client, architect, consultants and contractor - where the new truly celebrates the past.”

Demolished and rebuilt on the existing site, using many of the reclaimed bricks from the old building as part of internal walls in the new interior, the new Everyman was designed by London-based Haworth Tompkins Architects and includes updated incarnations of its hallmark features - a 400-seat thrust auditorium and convivial basement bistro, while 21st Century technical equipment, rehearsal room, costume workshop and sound studio enhance both productions and training opportunities. A large studio dedicated to participatory work enables the theatre to involve more young people, schools and community groups and a Writers’ Room places artists at the heart of the building. The whole building is designed to be highly environmentally sustainable, while the façade features an innovative portrait wall comprised of 105 diverse people of Liverpool.

To be associated with a Stirling Prize winner is an incredible honour for any lighting designer, and so when Everyman won the award DHA Designs was naturally thrilled. The last decade has been an incredible journey for Haworth Tompkins and an exciting time for DHA Designs, which has shared part of that ride having worked closely with the architect previously on Young Vic theatre in 2006.

“We were delighted when Steve Tompkins (of Haworth Tompkins) called us back in 2011 to discuss the Everyman theatre,” said Adam Grater, Co-Founder of DHA Designs. “Initially we were sharing ideas about a treatment for the façade lighting, but the brief was developed to cover the front of house area as well.”

The main west-facing façade of the building has become a large-scale public work of art consisting of three rows of moveable metal sunshade panels, each unique with a life-sized, water-cut portrait of a contemporary Liverpool resident - each can be rotated manually from inside of the office spaces to control daylight.

Lighting these panels was a tricky task that involved on-site mock-ups on a section of the cladding. DHA Designs chose to light from the top of the façade downwards, by introducing a rail of light along the top of the façade to hide an array of EcoSense EcoSpec LED linear HP EXT wall wash fixtures. The downward light would minimise sky-glow, scoring points for the building’s BREEAM performance, and also lighting down to the outdoor public balcony on the first floor. The mock-ups allowed the team to precisely measure the optimum offset of the rail, to optimise the lit effect.

“We chose a product from EcoSense that had excellent optics, using a 10º by 60º and an external louvre to reduce glare,” said Peter Fordman, Designer at DHA Designs. “The product matched our performance requirements and could be achieved within the budget constraints.”
The warmer colour temperature of 2,700K was decided on, bringing the panels to life at night. With so much manual adjustment of the panels, it was a challenge to achieve the best-lit effect that would equally wash across a closed panel and create interesting shadows on the panels that had been adjusted.

Developed by Jake Tilson, the new Everyman signage sits on the front face of the external balcony and was designed to replace the iconic neon lettering mounted to the façade of the original building. Designed as a centrepiece for the building, it needed to be lit so that it could be read from both sides. For this, DHA approached Kemps Architectural Lighting to assist with the manufacturing and development of the custom signage. The rear of the sign is made from a perforated metal plate, allowing light to escape and also for the light source inside the sign to be partially visible. A full-scale mock up of one of the letters quickly determined the choice of light sources, and clear red cold cathode tubes used against the more modern LED tape light solutions, used for backlit signage, won the test.

In addition to the external façade lighting, the team chose to make a feature of the three new chimneys that sit at roof level towards the back of the building. Clad in red-brick, the base of each chimney is washed at night with a soft red glow using miniature LED spotlights from Mike Stoane Lighting, sitting on concrete pedestals at roof level. It is a discreet effect that becomes visible at night from different viewpoints along Hope Street in Liverpool.

Mike Stoane Lighting was also approached by Fordham for the interior spaces. The architect wanted to keep the interior lighting very simple, but also very quirky and unique to the project. Many of the spaces had exposed concrete ceilings, introducing quite an industrial feel to the interior architecture. The architect was keen to introduce a family of fixtures with a variety of mountings and fixing details to add to this, with an emphasis on detail but without making things too technical.
Having seen some of Mike Stoane Lighting’s custom fixtures on previous projects and with their keen eye for detail, it was an obvious choice for the Everyman theatre.

Keeping things as simple as possible and within the constraints of a restricted budget, it was decided that mains voltage LED A-lamps would fit the bill, creating a soft diffuse light but still allowing simple dimming - something of a risk in 2011, when the market was already saturated by new products from unknown lamp manufacturers, promising high efficacies and smooth dimming, but not always delivering. It was something of a learning curve to sort the wheat from the chaff, but by the time the fixtures were ordered, the best performing lamp had been chosen, using the DimTone Master LED lamp from Philips, which shifts to a warmer colour when dimmed.

The family of interior fixtures are based loosely around a simple lamp holder and copper coloured metal disc, either as a surface mounted option, or pendant fixture with braided cables. The exception to this is downstairs in the basement, where things get a lot more fun. Haworth Tompkins was challenged with designing a new bistro that matched the charm and popularity of the original. The old bistro was very much a popular local haunt and it was important not to lose its personality with the new design. “Steve Tompkins came up with the original idea to introduce a raising and lowering mechanism for the fixtures in the new bistro, and it was our job to find a way to make this work,” said Fordham.

Mike Stoane Lighting was able to advise on the best choice of materials for the fixtures that could meet the budget and the architect’s expectations. Each fixture is suspended on a braided electrical cable via a simple pulley system across the ceiling, to a set of copper counter weights that hang close to the light wells on one side of the space. The height of the fixtures can be manually adjusted to create an extra level of intimacy, with a system of limiters to make sure that the system remains safe. DHA Designs added a concealed strip of warm white linear LED along the edge of each of the light wells so that they appear to glow at night.

DHA Designs was also asked to consider re-using some of the theatre’s old lighting stock in the front of house spaces - as a lighting feature but with some functionality. “The architect was very keen on the look of these fixtures, but well aware that they needed to be brought up to date regarding lamp technology to make them a viable addition to a permanent lighting scheme,” said Fordham.

Testament to what the RIBA Award means to the Everyman, commenting - through the theatre’s website - on Haworth Tompkins involvement in the rebuild, Artistic Director Gemma Bodinetz and Executive Director Deborah Aydon are quoted: “We’re thrilled to have won this most prestigious of awards. The Everyman was built with humanity at its heart, an intent embodied by the 105 people of Liverpool on its façade. Haworth Tompkins has delivered us a building that is sustainable, technically first rate and with unparalleled levels of accessibility for a theatre.

On a small site with many competing needs and technical necessities they overcame every challenge with zeal and imagination to create something that is as beautiful as it is functional.

“But most of all they have transformed a building that lacked so much, into a building that embodies what the Everyman’s ethos has always been: world-class theatre in our auditorium, nurturing new writing, great food in convivial spaces, and somewhere for young people to dream of a future where nothing is impossible. Ten years ago when we embarked on this journey with Haworth Tompkins we could never have imagined it would end in winning the RIBA Stirling Prize: they have designed a building that supplies joy beyond expectation to every visitor and those of us lucky enough to work here.”



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