The Curve completes in the Heart of Slough

Landmark £22m cultural hub is the centrepiece of Slough’s regeneration

A dynamic team of architects, designers and consultants are celebrating the completion of the £22m cultural hub project, The Curve, located in the centre of Slough, Berkshire, UK. The Curve is the flagship public building and the key community amenity in the on-going regeneration of Slough’s town centre, where over £45m of public investment has already been spent or committed to create an entirely new commercial district – The Heart of Slough. Housing a library, a 280 seat multi-purpose performance venue, and spaces for council meetings and exhibitions, the 4,500 sq m building consolidates disparate community functions and registrar services across the centre of Slough.

Working on behalf of Morgan Sindall and Slough Urban Regeneration, bblur architecture was responsible for the external architectural design, and CZWG Architects LLP led the design of the interiors. Working closely with both partners, Colorminium was responsible for the specific design of the total envelope of the scheme, designing and installing the roofing, cladding, curtain walling, plant enclosures and brise soleil as well as the doorsets and lobbies.

The 90m long, 15m high building’s form, a curved ‘tube’, features fully glazed entry facades, and opens onto two new public squares, created at each end of the building. These public spaces provide safe external space for users, whilst the ground floor of the building creates a new daytime pedestrian internal ‘street’ between William Street and Mackenzie Square, boosting connectivity across Slough’s town centre encouraging footfall through and into the building by creating a ‘short-cut’ across the town centre.

Various technical challenges were overcome to achieve the sleek exterior of the scheme in order it provided a clean backdrop to the adjacent listed St Ethelbert’s church. Colorminium responded to the complex geometry of bblur architecture’s design by formulating a bespoke cladding system to the North, East and West elevations where the building is curved on plan and in the vertical section. Broken up by strips of vertically facetted curtain walling and with an inclined ‘eyebrow’ screen at the base, the glazing also had to be completely customised. The silver exterior is contrasted with the orange brise soleil on the William Street elevation, which gives a hint of the building’s colourful interior on arrival.

Kieran Mallinson, Director of Colorminium commented:

“It was a challenging project, in which we needed to maintain extreme attention to detail and uncompromising standards across the interiors and exteriors of the build. In realising the brief to deliver the building’s complex form, we devised a creative and innovative cladding solution that would achieve bblur’s architectural vision. We are extremely proud of the finished result, helping to create what is arguably the jewel in the crown of Slough’s regeneration.”

CZWG were invited to join the collaboration in 2012, shortly after delivery of the new ‘super’ library on the edge of the Canada Water basin in Surrey Quays, London. Stephen Rigg, CZWG’s project partner for the Canada Water Library—recently named the second-busiest library in London for the second consecutive year—believes Southwark Council raised the bar in terms of architectural and social ambition for a public library.

The ground floor of The Curve houses a café with its view to the garden, exhibition space and the performance venue with doors that can open to the public plaza. Two generous curving staircases tempt visitors up to the first floor main library, seating areas and the bulk of the book collection displayed on freestanding curved shelves. At the west end of this floor is the children’s library with colourful furniture, a storytelling area and buggy park.

At the centre of the first floor is a double height atrium, linking the library to the extensive study spaces on the second floor. The Registrar’s office is also on the second floor and an area dedicated to local history, complete with its own study area, while archive photos and artefacts are displayed on every floor in museum “pods”.

Stephen Rigg, Partner of CZWG commented:

“The Canada Water Library showed that, even in the age of the Internet, the Library can be an exciting and popular centre for study, arts and leisure for the whole community. The Curve was an opportunity to prove this on a grand scale in the heart of Slough’s regeneration.”

“We expanded the concept of the route through the ground floor of the Curve to become a journey throughout the whole building, encouraging visitors to explore all levels and discover the variety of facilities on offer. The result is a dynamic space with a ‘wow factor’ to match the dramatic exterior.”

Bblur architecture has been working with Slough Borough Council since 2008, designing and delivering notable projects including the Bus Station, the Railway Station Forecourt, and the Public Realm along Wellington Street. The practice has also been responsible for improvements to the Queensmere Shopping Centre, including a new façade, which helps define the new square in front of The Curve, and enables the provision of a new active ground floor in the future.

Matthew Bedward, Director of bblur architecture commented:

“It has been a long, complex journey for the team and I am delighted that our building successfully transforms a dreary, cluttered part of Slough into a distinctive and vibrant new community hub. The way the building gently wraps around the rear of the listed church creates a pleasing contrast and the relationship between the two buildings has enabled us to create two new public squares for people living and working in Slough.”