Project Title: The Apex, Arc, Bury St Edmunds
Materials: Redwood, Larch and White Oak
Bury St Edmunds is one of England’s best preserved historic market towns, its mediaeval urban structure largely unspoilt. Comprising 10 acres immediately adjacent to the market centre of town, the site of the former Cattle Market has long been an obvious choice for future growth, but successive schemes for the site failed to engage local support. In 2001 St Edmundsbury Borough Council sought a development partner to design, fund and implement a retail-led scheme for the site to safeguard Bury’s trading future. As architects for the successful team of developer Centros Miller, we developed a masterplan for the site that sought to extend the centre of Bury with a piece of mixed-use townscape, the scale and sequence of spaces in which would be comparable to those experienced in the existing town, with its pattern of streets and squares meshing with existing routes and links into and across the site. Many of Bury’s historic buildings are timber-framed, albeit many have been clad: our scheme builds on this tradition with a framed timber superstructure over a concrete retail ground floor “table”, its infill responding to various above-ground uses. Expressed frames and boarded softwood infill have a sacrificial stain applied to mask differential effects as they weather to an even grey.
The Apex provides the civic focus for the scheme. A flexible multi-use hall, its foyer is conceived as an extension to the central square onto which it faces, and its Auditorium is articulated as a freestanding brick box embedded within one of the retail blocks.
The Auditorium ground floor is movable to permit a range of performance arrangements.
Two balconies accommodate bespoke tip-up seating to match the ground floor benches. Acoustically, Apex is state of the art. Doubly-curved panels are laminated from solid timber, their geometry and horizontal slots helping to control reflections. Slotted panels at the eaves provide acoustic absorption where reflections might combine detrimentally.
The building is entered through a glazed wall under a concrete bridge. At first floor, the bridge is occupied by lounge seating and café furniture serving the venue’s bars.
PhotoCredits: Simon Kennedy & Morley Von Sternberg
Building Owner: St Edmundsbury Borough Council
Architect: Hopkins Architects
Builder / Main Contractor: Haymills Vinci (fit-out works, including joinery) / Vinci Construction UK (shell works)
Structural Engineers: WSP
Joinery: Coulson Joinery
Wood Supplier: Associated Timber Services Ltd