New cinema designs approved

98-Blackburn Cinema Artist Impression March 2018

The Planning Application was approved last month for the new eight-screen cinema complex on the former Waves site next to Blakey Moor. This will undoubtedly have a massive positive impact on the economic regeneration of the town, but how comfortably will this modern building sit within the heart of our Conservation Area?

The £6.5 million Reel Cinema development on the site will include two units for restaurants and cafes, an under-ground car parking (including the borough’s first electric charging points for vehicles) and new landscaping around the building to Nab Lane and Barton Street.

Work has been on-going for some time to develop a design for the site that is commercially viable, yet provides an attractive addition to the Conservation Area.

Sitting adjacent to two of the town’s Listed Buildings – King George’s Hall and the Victoria Building, it has been interesting to see how the plans have developed over time in response to some varying opinions about how big the building should be and what it should look like.

SHEET 6 - Waves Massing 1bEarly consideration of the site looked at maximising the space for development
SHEET 8 - Waves Massing 2bVariations to reduce the impact of one large block

cineamOnce a single storey building was agreed, consideration was given to improving front elevation

cinema CGIDesign progressed to considering cladding materials and softening building with landscaping
[public] 18_0077 Blackburn Cinema Artist ImpressionDesign continued to develop, starting to look at the different uses
98-Blackburn Cinema Artist Impression March 2018Final design with much more sophisticated detailing and finish

In today’s delicate economic climate and the changing nature of town centres, it is essential that any new project like this has to stack up financially and provide what both commercial operators and customers want. Balancing this against the ambitions to deliver high quality design and construction, especially in a Conservation Area can be very tricky.

One of the most eye-opening things has been to hear how widely opinion differs about what is important and what is appropriate. Most (both professionals and laypeople) generally seem to agree, we should not be trying to recreate a period building and that a contemporary design provides a more honest approach. As for the size, scale and materials of a new build – then it would seem there is no real consensus.

When combined with pressures of a tight budget, not being clear as to what is ‘right’ can run the risk of a poor compromise. However, in this case the lengthy and considered design process has hopefully resulted in a comfortable compromise that meets both objectives well.

The building is never going to please everyone, but given the constraints of an eight-screen cinema and the type of building that is required for this to function well for the operator and customers, and the need to respect the setting of two Listed Buildings, it would seem that this simple single storey modern block is good response.

Contemporary gold anodised aluminium, brown and bronze patina and marziale brick

Unlike the usual big box cinema developments, care has been given to ensure external cladding is of a quality that compliments the quality of surrounding heritage. The addition of a fully glazed entrance brings an attractive active frontage that will enliven the space day and night.  Greening with grass, trees and new planting to both the front and side elevations will help soften the impact of the building on the streetscape and the new vista created towards the Victoria Building from Barton Street after the demolition of Waves will be retained by keeping the new building low level.

Now that the building has been given the green light, we’ll just have to wait and see if this is the right design and how well it sits on the site.

Read the full Heritage Statement submitted as part of the Planning Application.

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