The Corby Cube is a truly new paradigm for civic buildings in an age of austerity. It demonstrates that world class public facilities can be sustainable and at the very heart of a community’s proactive regeneration.
A catalyst for change in Corby
In 2010 Corby Borough Council was tackling decades of decline, and determined to dramatically regenerate the town. In this same year the Comprehensive Spending Review announced cuts of some 26% to local government funding, pushing councils to rationalise their estates and deliver services more efficiently and effectively. Corby council’s original brief was for an arts building and a civic centre on adjacent sites to create a gateway between the town centre and the historic parkland to the west. Between them the two buildings had to house a flexible theatre, an arts and studio space, a public library, restaurant, café and bars, a council one-stop-shop, and a council chamber and offices.
“Executed brilliantly… A real coup for Corby”
British Theatre Guide on Blackout
Two buildings in one
Our ambitious vision for the project challenged this approach and combined the individual briefs to create a lively 24-hour hub. Our proposal promised to attract a wider visitor audience and increase operational efficiencies whilst simultaneously releasing one of the two sites for future development. Our design concept was to combine the disparate and unique functions of the building within the pure geometric form of a cube.
“This is the most astonishing building. It is a 21st century town hall… I can say this is the most dynamic civic centre not just in this region but across the country.”
Phil Hope, Former MP for Corby
Mixing up the uses
Internally, the public uses are arranged around an accessible public route. Starting with the gentle inclined floor of the library that delivers visitors to the One-Stop-Shop at first floor, the promenade continues via a “lazy” linear stair, and culminates in a sculptural helical staircase that links the civic spaces with a rooftop garden.
The journey from street to roof garden takes place through increasingly intimate spaces that respond to the changing functions of the building. A range of routes connect the building and make it open and permeable, whilst spaces within each floor retain a distinct character. Efficient space planning was balanced with thoughtfully positioned lightwells and voids to construct views and vistas, and exploit the 3D geometry of the building.
Inside the box
A public building with so many services must be easy and instinctive to navigate, and the interior design of the project was always central to the success of the concept. We used interior design to communicate the formal and the informal areas of the building, and to distinguish between communal and intimate spaces.
Robust permanent elements such as the concrete walls are accentuated with flashes of vibrant colour from soft furnishings, bespoke designed joinery and bold graphics, to create a contemporary and accessible atmosphere, and a visually rewarding environment for everyone.
Integrated architectural details such as the private study areas, the casual seating within the library, and the carefully concealed usher seats in the theatre, ensure that the building works on both an urban and a human scale.
At the heart of the building is The Core, a fresh contemporary take on the traditional playhouse theatre. We used a rich palette of walnut and plush fabrics to capture some of the old-style glamour of a night at the theatre, and the seating arrangement is deliberately intimate to encourage audience interaction.
“There is much sound thinking behind The Core, in architectural, theatrical and social terms. Just ask anyone who lives in Corby.”
At the heart of Corby's regeneration
The Cube is set within a new town square that has become the social and civic heart of Corby, and is accessed from Corby Walk, a new tree-lined avenue that links historic woodland to the west with the town centre and the new station to the east. From the outset we worked closely with adjacent sites and consultants to ensure that we were fully joined up to create a diverse new urban quarter and vibrant public realm in the heart of the town.
more library members
since relocating to Corby Cube
“There are few better examples of the belief that the arts can help to regenerate urban centres than the opening last year of The Core at Corby Cube, a multi-use cultural centre in the Northamptonshire town of Corby.”