Vibrant New Entrance to Leeds Playhouse Honours Yorkshire Ceramic Tradition

An eye-catching tribute to the city’s ceramic heritage has begun to take shape as part of the ambitious project to transform the Leeds Playhouse.

The latest phase in the much-loved theatre’s redevelopment has seen the installation of the first in a series of four striking ceramic panels, forming a vibrant façade above what will be the venue’s dynamic new entrance.

Working with architects Page\Page, the design has been influenced by the local tradition of using ceramic and faience (fine tin-glazed pottery on a buff earthenware body) in building facades and interiors.

Leeds Playhouse’s new façade is flanked by handmade coloured ceramic panels reflecting the creativity and diversity of the artistic programme, audience and building.

This rich tradition is visible throughout the city, notably in the tiled hall of the Central Library, Art Gallery and County Arcade, and continues in more recent developments such as Victoria Gate.

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Key stakeholders gathered on site to get an up-close look at the new features, which are a key part of the building’s £15.8million capital redevelopment.

Councillor Judith Blake, leader of Leeds City Council, said: “I’m thrilled to see the plans for the Playhouse coming to life in such a visually impressive way which the whole city can see and appreciate.

“These stunning designs are a fitting tribute to Leeds’s past whilst the theatre itself is very much a key part of our future, making a bold statement about our growing status as a leading destination for world class culture and the arts for many years to come.”

Leeds Playhouse artistic director James Brining said: “It’s fantastic to see the grand new entrance of Leeds Playhouse taking shape and it will be an eye-catching and striking addition to the Playhouse.

BAM have done an incredible job re-navigating the building to improve accessibility and the visitor experience while Page\Park have brought creativity and drama to the design, befitting a theatre, whilst considering the area’s history and legacy.

In keeping with the vibrant aesthetic of Leeds City Centre, the new façade cements the Playhouse as a cultural landmark within the cultural quarter on Quarry Hill and we can’t wait to welcome everyone back to the Playhouse in October with a full programme of events and productions.”

The £15.8m redevelopment project, led by Leeds City Council, will be funded by £5.6m from the council, alongside a £6.6m Arts Council England contribution and £3.6m from the Playhouse’s own resources, including a fundraising target of £2.75m.

John Phillips, regional director- North East for contractors BAM Construction said: “BAM has been building in Leeds for more than 75 years and it is a privilege to be part of the redevelopment of this celebrated cultural institution in the city. The installation of these special tiles is an important milestone in the Leeds Playhouse redevelopment, they will create a unique entrance to the theatre.

“I’m delighted the council has trusted BAM with this special scheme. One of BAM’s great credentials is our adaptability and genuinely collaborative approach. We’ve listened carefully to the Playhouse, to truly understand how they use their building, and it has been a pleasure to help them to make their vision a reality.”

The palette of the new façade recalls the vivid colours of Burmantofts Pottery, Leeds’s major ceramic manufacturers known for its distinctive multi-coloured pottery and the development of architectural faience which was globally exported. The colour scheme will also feed into the interior of the rejuvenated building.

The repetitive three-dimensional form of the ceramic panels is derived from the geometry of the existing theatre building, to ensure a dynamic façade that changes with the light. The eye-catching, four column panels are 200-strong, with each of the panels representing one of the four performance spaces within the Playhouse.

Page\Park Director Nicola Walls said “We’ve incorporated an abstracted view of each performance space, in each case inspired by standing on stage and looking back at the auditorium. The performers are depicted at the base of the panels and the contrasting ‘spot’ colours at the head of the panels represent the audience.

The Playhouse’s values sit at the heart of this architectural project. Celebrating the city and people of Leeds the new façade is a dramatic welcome to the Playhouse’s rejuvenated building.”

The technical design of the panels and the support system has been developed working closely with main contractor BAM, the specialist subcontractor Varla, and the ceramic supplier Darwen Terracotta.

Leeds Playhouse is due to reopen in Autumn 2019 with performances commencing from 3 October. An Open Weekend will invite visitors to explore and rediscover the transformed theatre, kicking off a season of incredible productions.

Audiences and Patrons can support Leeds Playhouse’s fundraising campaign by dedicating a tile, acknowledged by receiving a corresponding wall plaque inside the Playhouse building or by naming a seat in one of our newly redeveloped theatre spaces.

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