Guy Hollaway Architects has completed Elwick Place, a £26m leisure complex in Ashford, Kent. Forming one of the town’s Big 8 regeneration projects, the building is sited opposite the County Square shopping centre in the heart of town and comprises a 1000-seat, six-screen Picturehouse cinema, nine food and drink outlets, a new meeting and events space, a 58-room Travelodge hotel, residential units, and a 282-space car park.
“This is the first new build ‘Picturehouse’ cinema in the country and will create a new destination for Ashford, giving people a reason to come into the town centre in the evenings”, says practice principal Guy Hollaway. “When so many towns are building out of town cinemas, Ashford is bucking the trend and investing in its town centre to bring about positive change.”
The masterplan includes a new public square that is intended to provide a sense of destination and community, with cafes, restaurants, film screenings, events and pop up markets. A public walkway improves city centre and pedestrian flow, strengthening the link to the existing and much used public footbridge, as well as enhancing connectivity to the railway station and Victoria Park to the south.
Externally, ‘black boxes’ typical of the acoustic and visual integrity required of cinema design are wrapped at first-floor level with sections of gold-coloured woven, anodised aluminium mesh. Adopting a sculptural and softly tapering form, the mesh reflects daylight to create a subtly changing and opaque facade. After dusk and illuminated from within, the mesh becomes a transparent gauze and beacon for the town’s nightlife.
A terrace bar with glazed balustrading articulates the west elevation extending out from the cinema bar and allowing cinema-goers to enjoy a drink outside. Gold-coloured aluminum composite cladding on the Travelodge towards the eastern end of the cinema creates a complementary dialogue between the project’s two anchor buildings.
The architect collaborated with artists on the project to include features designed to celebrate Ashford’s market town heritage. The original cattle market gateposts have been recovered and painstakingly restored by artist Jonathon Wright. Elsewhere, the Elwick Etchings, a public art project by Strange Cargo, sees 100 personal reminiscences and stories from the people of Ashford engraved into paving slabs to ensure voices that from the town’s past form part of its future.