The Fire Station Auditorium is a brand-new state of the art performance venue which opened in Sunderland at the end of 2021. Brought by the Music, Arts and Culture Trust, who are developing a Music, Arts and Cultural Quarter (MACQ) in the centre of Sunderland, that will restore and re-establish the area’s previous importance as the Edwardian heart and soul of the city. The project was won in via competitive tendering exercise in 2018 and forms a key component in the masterplan for the Music and Cultural Quarter, built around the refurbished Dun Cow pub, the Empire Theatre and the recently renovated adjacent Fire Station.
A key driver of the brief for the auditorium was the need to address Sunderland’s lack of appropriately sized specialist venues for music, drama, and dance. As a result, the new auditorium is designed to accommodate audiences of 500 people seated or 800 people standing in a variety of layouts. The hall has been designed to work equally well for amplified music or a natural acoustic, for the staging of drama, dance or comedy, conference events and film screenings.
The foyer is designed as an extension of the ground floor public space within the Edwardian Fire Station and the venue capitalises on the surrounding public open space and creates a destination in the heart of the city. It forms a natural partner to the restaurants, bars, and drama and dance rehearsal studios in and around the Fire station. The Parade Ground to the rear has been opened to the public with an outdoor stage allowing the venue to host outdoor as well as indoor events. The new Auditorium is an extension of the refurbished Edwardian fire station which contains studio spaces for Live Theatre, Dance City, and the Northern Academy of Music Education.
The ground level box office / reception sits at the centre serving both wings of the building with the Engine Room bar providing an all-day food and beverage offering which operates when the Auditorium is closed and opens out on to the south facing public square.
The Auditorium and the Edwardian Fire Station together form a continuous façade to a south facing public square. Above the glazed foyer the auditorium is clad in terracotta brise soleil, matching the colour and tone of the red brickwork of the Fire Station. Views through the terracotta to the interior of the foyer reveal the form of the brick auditorium within. The west elevation is formed as a red brick block onto Garden Place and the listed Empire Theatre. It is carved with a series of simple vertical cuts to reveal windows and entrances with the box of the auditorium projecting above.
The dramatic sculptural quality of the brick architecture continues around the building to the outdoor stage which forms a proscenium as the focal point of the Parade Ground. The foyers are designed to maximise glazing to ensure views into the building and from the foyers over the public square and daylight into the public spaces.
The Fire Station Auditorium, Sunderland
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