The Curve is a state-of-the-art theatrical space that turns the standard theatre configuration on its head, exposing the behind-the-scenes production and construction of a spectacle to the public, making them part of the performance. The project dissolved the lines between stage and audience and sought to integrate the spectacles into the building's public areas, as well as into the city's life. It is also a landmark in the regeneration efforts of the St George's historical conservation area at the heart of Leicester's cultural boundaries, engaging the community and adapting itself to the variety of cultural needs.
The entirety of the external façade is made of double-glazed panels with horizontal metallic shades, allowing for views of the building's four storeys and the activities taking place within, such as in the rehearsal, music and dance rooms, as well as the lobby and auditoriums. Inside, circling the lobby, the glass façade of the workshops allows the public to witness the set construction and other technical processes. The L-shaped workshops are on the ground floor of the block and built in brick, which complements the local historical buildings to the north. This block, which is 4 storeys high, accommodates all the support functions for the spectacles, including administration. There is a walkway that allows for circulation on each floor, as well as views of the lobby, theatres and public areas. Both auditoriums, one seating 750 and the other, 350, are laid out on opposite ends of the central stage and were conceived as islands in the middle of the lobby. They are also visible from the outside.
The stage, lobby and pavement are on the same level and visually connected, making the theatrical experience an extension of the street. Metal shutters and moveable, soundproofed firewalls are used to open up the stage to either, or both, audiences, ensuring a diversity of configurations. There is no separation between on-and backstage; indeed, there is even the possibility of integrating the stage into the lobby such that it can be used for pedestrian circulation. Artists cross the lobby when coming from the dressing rooms to the stage, as do set objects and elements, integrating the public and the performance.
A mezzanine on the second floor, extending inward from the front of the building, provides access to the theatre's upper seats and views of the city or performances taking place in the lobby. On these occasions, the equipment is suspended from the railings. The lobby also features a café that is always open, making the Curve one of Leicester's social meeting points.
The complete brief called for: A 750-seater theatre; a 350-seater theatre; a stage; an orchestra pit; one technical space above the stage, and one below it; rehearsal rooms; dressing rooms; workshops and production areas; a recording studio; a ticket office; a lobby; a café; a restaurant; a kitchen; a lounge; a bar; offices; meeting rooms; lecture rooms.
The development process demanded that the architectural team conduct extensive research with the client regarding the brief to gain a detailed understanding of how each of a theatre's technical operations functions in relation to each other, so that the best positioning, layout, finishes and infrastructure of the spaces could be arrived at. The operational block, especially, saw the internal elevations developed for each environment on a case by case basis, along with the respective room data sheets that laid out the specific requirements.
The external envelope was thoroughly developed by specialists in order to optimise the building's thermal comfort and energy system. An acoustics consultant was also called in to work on all the spaces. In addition to these, and the architects, the other consultants that made up the multidisciplinary team included professionals from the following areas: structures, services and infrastructure, project management, budgets and quotes, and theatres.
The main contractor was hired during the draft design project development stage and participated in the value engineering process, resulting in significant cost benefits.