Following a limited international competition in November 1990, Ian Ritchie Architects won a commission to design a Cultural and Sports Centre in Albert, Northern France. Ian Ritchie Architects were the only non-French team invited to compete. We were also asked to construct manage the project as an demonstration project for the Ministère de l’Equipement. It was completed on time in ten months and within cost and opened in February 1993.
The centre includes a 600 seat theatre and a competition gymnasium hall which can be combined together as one space to create a large space for exhibitions, banquets and other cultural events. Other permanent facilities include a small conference centre, exhibition gallery, administration offices and a caretaker’s apartment.
The town of Albert was rebuilt after the 1st World War, and has many examples of Art-Deco buildings. The new centre completes the town’s main square, with the town hall, a secondary school and the school of music.
The concept for the design is based upon the evolution of the town’s economy – from its agricultural origins, through metallurgy at the end of the 19th century, to its present aeronautical engineering industry (Aerospatiale). This is interpreted as changing vertical layers (acrepetal) of mass and material – from stack-bonded brickwork, through metal to fabric roof elements.
The bamboo garden entrance is unpretentious, and is a reminder of a traditional farm courtyard.