The Lightbox is a new kind of cultural centre, and is Woking’s first museum and gallery. It originated from a local group in the community and contains galleries capable of displaying both international exhibitions and local artist’s work alike, and a permanent exhibition that tells the Woking’s story. It has also become a meeting place that provides a cultural bridge between the many diverse groups in the town. The building opened to the public in September 2007 and won the UK 2008 Arts Fund Prize.
Marks Barfield Architects won a design competition for the project in 2002, with a design that responds to the challenging site and brief, while trying to maximise space inside the building. The site is a triangular sliver of land sandwiched between the Basingstoke canal and a five-lane highway that cuts the site off from the centre of Woking.
One of the key objectives was to address the building to canal while protecting it from the highway and connecting it back into the town. The aim was to create a gentle landmark and reflect the culture diversity of the town – a jewellery box that contains all kinds of cultural treasures. Overlapping ‘snakeskin’ anodised aluminium panels, in five shades of gold and silver, spiral up and around the public spaces of the building, predominantly on the road side of the building. The cladding pattern, inspired from nature, suggests the lateral line found on fish for balance. The canal side cladding is cedar, reflecting the softer, natural environment.
There was also the objective of creating a low energy building that lives up to Woking’s reputation as the UK’s greenest borough.The main top lit atrium in the building provides the main circulation and orientation space and is also used to display the gallery’s art collection with significant pieces by Elizabeth Frink, Eduardo Paolozzi and Jacob Epstein. The roof lights not only provide natural lighting but also generate electricity using PV’s. At ground level the atrium is glazed with dichroic striped glass creating spectacular rainbow reflections when the sun shines and encouraging views into and out of the building. The entire building is highly insulated, airtight and naturally ventilated (from the canal side) in all but the main galleries. Hot water comes from the town’s CHP system and the building achieves 10.7kgCO2/m2. Read more
A canal garden has been created by locating the building as far to the wider eastern end of the site as possible, making a south westerly facing garden space orientated to the canal. A three-metre-high gabion wall protects the canal garden from the noise and pollution of the adjacent highway, enabling visitors to experience the arcadian tranquillity of the canal, which was historically an important feature of Woking’s growth but has more recently been hidden and underused.
“Without the fantastic team effort in meeting all the deadlines, attention to every detail and a wonderful sense of co-operation, we could never have achieved our goal.”
Marylin Scott, Director Lightbox