With Relish puts North Wall Arts Centre on cultural map

Hailed as ‘the most exciting arts project to come out of Oxford’, the £3.9m venue The North Wall Arts Centre this week opens its doors to the public.
Designed and developed by architect Haworth Tompkins from a Victorian swimming pool and ancillary buildings, the site comprises a 250-seat theatre, art gallery and dance/ drama studios that will host a three-week summer festival of music, film and theatre.

Graphics group With Relish has developed an identity and brand for both the centre and the festival.

‘It’s such a unique space that crosses boundaries, both creatively and culturally,’ says The North Wall Arts Centre creative director Emily Man. ‘Because we’re integrating different media and working across both professional and amateur, as well as being open to young people, we’re doing something different.’

The centre, conceived and funded privately by St Edward’s School, is a public/private partnership between the school and a public-facing steering committee led by award-winning composer George Fenton.

Haworth Tompkins was employed by the school almost five years ago to produce a turnkey development where the use of materials, texture and colour would be integral to communicating the vision of the centre.

A mixture of oak shingle, deep-red brick, glass and cement have been used throughout, while the high, open ceiling of the theatre creates better acoustic quality.

The dance studio also features a sliding oak shingle wall that opens up to create a three-walled room, making use of outside space.

‘Lucy Maycock, our head of drama, has been really influential in the concept of the interior. She came up with this idea about the building being “earthy and sublime”. This has really been worked into the interior design, as well as the brand. The deep-red textured brick of the theatre, and smooth glass and cement of the gallery are complementary. It was important for us to have a design that a young audience can really react and respond to,’ says Man.

With Relish was appointed by the steering committee 18 months ago, on the strength of its previous work with the Almeida Theatre, in Islington, north London.

Sarah Hyndman, director and founder of With Relish, explains, ‘The idea of the centre being a window on the arts became the basis for the identity, while the colour palette takes its lead from the colours and textures inside the venue.’

The colourful and typographical brand language has been applied to a website, promotional material, signage and stationery.

• The English Symphony Orchestra and Oxford Playhouse production team will feature at the centre over coming months
• The centre will host a resident drama summer school following the festival
• The summer festival runs from 2-21 July at The North Wall Arts Centre, South Parade, Oxford OX2 7NN
• Visit www.thenorthwall.com for further details of the festival programme

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