With accessibility placed front and centre, The Dance Space in Brighton’s Circus Street area provides culture and regeneration to its surrounding climes.
Words by Emily Martin
Interior design scheme: South East Dance (SED)
Executive Architect: TP Bennett
Landscape Architect: Michael Grubb Studio
External Lighting Designer: J & L Gibbons
Size: 1,305 sq m
Open date: 16 July 2022
A NEW dance building, designed by shedkm for South East Dance at Circus Street in Brighton, opened its doors in the summer providing the area with a new permanent home for dance. The Dance Space is a stand-alone building providing a year-round programme of dance classes, workshops and events for all, putting culture at the heart in a new mixed-use development serving a diverse community.
The building itself is inspired by a bold. Image Credit: DARREN COOL
The project has created a positive regenerative impact on the surrounding properties, specifically those along Circus Street that are within the conservation area, which have also undergone work. A once deprived area of the city, Circus Street has had somewhat of an uplift in recent years, with The Dance Space aiding to the Circus Street investment.
Cube-like geometry. Image Credit: DFPHOTOGRAPHY / DANNY FITZPATRICK
‘The redevelopment of the site is seen as an opportunity to take Brighton into its next major development phase and is key to the regeneration of a significantly disadvantaged part of the city,’ explains Helen Misselbrook, associate, Shedkm, and Circus Street Design Guardian. ‘The project has had a positive, regenerative impact on the surrounding properties kick-starting regeneration of the wider area. Circus Street will contribute significantly to Brighton and Hove’s growing economy. The scheme will have delivered over 400 new jobs and more than £200m gross value added to the local economy in the next 10 years.’
The main spaces connect to the new public square at Circus Street and allow for outdoor performance. Inside there is a main studio space, bleacher seating, research and community studio, and office and ancillary space. A feature escape stair, designed as a sculptural element, corkscrews down the height of the building to land in a new public square, references the movement of dance, and has already become emblematic of the scheme’s playful identity.
Providing ample space for meeting areas and internal performance studios with seating for guests. Image Credit: DFPHOTOGRAPHY / DANNY FITZPATRICK
‘Combined with adjacent café and retail spaces at ground floor, the building will contribute to a vibrant neighbourhood, lively with activity by day and night’, says Misselbrook. ‘Access for all is its mantra.’
Externally, a bold, cube-like geometry is clad in distinctive galvanised steel panels which will weather over time in Brighton’s seaside atmosphere to create a dynamic changing façade. A compact and efficient design creates a smaller footprint at ground level maximising space for public realm and creating an overhang with the upper levels protecting the space from wind and rain. The protruding façade presents an opportunity for artistic projects or screenings during festival season. Close attention has been paid to access, acoustics, sight lines and air quality.
Inside the development is a main studio, research and community studio, and office space. Image Credit: MIKE MASSARO
Misselbrook explains that wherever possible, each decision made on its design has been carefully considered with access in mind. ‘All floors and rooms are wheelchair accessible and there are accessible toilets and changing facilities,’ she adds. ‘The colour scheme, lighting and signage has been designed with the needs of those with visual impairments, learning disabilities and autism in mind. The interior has been designed with the support of disabled artists and inclusion specialists to be as accessible to as many people as possible – including people with physical and neurological disabilities, including dementia.’
A feature escape staircase corkscrews down the height of the building. Image Credit: LUKE HAYES
City council and National Lottery funding was awarded through Arts Council England. Mindful of sustainability, the building features an attractive green roof to enhance biodiversity. Photovoltaics contribute to the building’s green credentials as one of only 10% of new builds in the UK awarded a BREAAM rating of excellent for its environmental features.
The dance studios are not cloistered, but are accessible and can be viewed externally. Image Credit: ROSIE POWELL
‘The Dance Space is a beacon for positive change in the area – a welcome addition to the already vibrant community in Brighton,’ says Misselbrook. ‘It contributes economic and cultural benefit and green spaces and worthwhile, outdoor event space provide additional creative assets. The Dance Space really is a result of collective belief, and collaborative energy, to deliver a truly special building for a unique organisation.’
Mike Stoane Lighting Ltd