Patel Taylor’s extension to St George’s Bristol enables the Grade II* listed concert venue is intended to generate additional income and enhance the visitor experience through a flexible suite of multifunctional spaces. The brief included a café-bar, multipurpose learning and event spaces, as well as back-of-house areas for management and performers.
In response, the extension is conceived as part of the landscape; a ‘non-building’ that relates to the stepped terraces of Robert Smirke’s original churchyard. The two-storey structure mediates between old and new, lightly touching the historic fabric. A glazed link formed from FWS 50 curtain walling connects the two buildings and serves as a powerful transition al space.
By contrast, the lower levels are heavy crypt-like spaces, connected to each other through the existing axes of the church. In-situ concrete walls, columns and soffits root the building to the ground. An oculus draws light into the multi-use spaces on the upper levels, focusing views to wards the sky.
Schüco Jansen’s Janisol steel system is used to form the glazed north and south entrances, while Schüco AWS 60 aluminium windows are employed on the east façade.
Among the main design challenges was how to negotiate the steeply sloping site. The solution was to introduce series of ‘terraces’ comprising a wildflower planted roof that aligns with the top of the site , multi-purpose spaces that align with the church auditorium , and a café that aligns with the church crypt. As such, the new structure is fully embedded into the ground at its north end, while opening up to the south where the glazed façade provides the café with day light and views out.
A further requirement of the brief was that the multi-purpose rehearsal and performances spaces had to useable at all times without noise transfer to the main auditorium. Careful specification of the glazing and doors helped ensure that sound transfer between the new and old spaces was eliminated.
Judges of the Schüco Excellence Awards 2021 applauded the sophisticated and expressive use of curtain walling on this highly sensitive cultural project, awarding it both the title of overall winner and a category award winner for steel project of the year.
“Contextual sensitivity combined with beautiful spaces and the careful curation of daylight make St George’s Bristol a worthy winner,” commented judge Hazel Josepth.
Special praise was reserved for the glazed link joining the two structures. Judge Ingrid Petit said: “This is a very well resolved project, particularly the way in which the curtain walling is used to connect the new and old elements.”
“The window and curtain walling systems are expertly handled on this exceptional building,” added jury member Steve Mudie.