This award recognises excellent achievement in providing a facility, which directly benefits the local community. In particular, the project must illustrate its success through local community feedback. Projects may be single or groups of buildings in urban, rural or coastal areas. They may be new or improvements to existing facilities.
The new facilities at the Lyric Hammersmith include four large highly technical yet flexible spaces for theatre, film and dance. Smaller facilities include the recording suite with separate studios for music, radio and TV & film editing; music practice rooms; a digital play space; a sensory space; workshop; wardrobe, meeting and seminar rooms and staff offices. All are arranged around a dramatic, bright new triple height foyer. The dramatic new circulation space flows directly beneath and around the stage to the existing foyer, cafe bars and terraces back down to the ground floor entrance and performance spaces on the town square.
Modelled as the first ‘teaching theatre' for the performing arts the new facilities provide a unique learning environment for young people at the heart of a professional theatre in which artists and teachers collaborate to inspire young people to become the artists. A key driver for both the client and the local community was the improvement of the theatre's public and community presence. Further meaningful engagement with the residents and key local groups like the Parks Trust, 20th Century Society and user groups early in the project has ensured the delivery of a building that meets their needs, excites them, and therefore fosters the cultural capital of the project. This process made a meaningful impact on the designs, such as the breadth of uses that the spaces should allow for and the inclusion of staff offices to allow greater interaction between staff, students and visitors. At the same time it also served to develop stakeholder relationships and a sense of ownership.
The Lyric can now have up to 200 young people using the new Reuben Foundation Wing each day to participate in formal training and/or positive activities, and up to 10,000 young people each year of which 1,000 will achieve formal qualifications. All activities are openly available to all local young people as the Lyric is uniquely placed to bring people from different social and cultural backgrounds together to develop new interests, learn new skills and make new friends. The Lyric does, however, place a strong emphasis on engaging young people with complex needs working in partnership with relevant agencies such as youth offending teams, social services and the Connexions service.
This new building, described by Creative Director Sean Homes as a "fabulous fun palace" fits the Lyric and its bold programme and ambition, and has had fantastic positive feedback from user groups as catalogued in the supporting evidence section. London-based artist David Batchelor was also commissioned to design original neon artwork for the facade of the building.
The Judges said:
From the outset, it was clear that both the Lyric Theatre and the community were determined that the project should improve the theatre for public and community activities. The new extension has met those objectives and the design has produced "grown-up" space that encourages "grown-up" behaviour.
The facility starts from the outside with a striking neon logo designed by a local artist and as one moves through the building it provides a continuing stream of facilities, areas designed to meet specific needs, and areas for simple gatherings.