The architects have made a truly terrible existing building (telephone exchange) fantastic at ground level, exploiting the local view and creating a vibrant place. This is so successful and the new interactive façade so intriguing and exciting that even though the dull crude building still existing from first floor up doesn't register. The project has regenerated this back street in Penzance and a wonderful resource has been created.
The partnership of architect and artist (Peter Freeman) has created a clever, dynamic light show system where the bottom lit vertical fins of glass change colour and intensity to create a Mexican wave along the street. It also responds to passers by following them along as they walk. We were interested to hear that the local authority have been persuaded to dispense with street lighting in this street so that only the lit fins of the building illuminate the street at night.
Despite having no natural light, the gallery space works well. It is flexible and utilitarian materials have been used to good effect. The café/shop space is very simple and as result flexible as well as looking calm and cool.
There is an ingenious resolution of different levels and geometry both at floor and ceiling level in the entrance area, which the architects calls the 'crumple zone'. Ramps reinforce the sense of movement in the building.
The users of the building are tremendously proud of their new place and lovingly care for it. It is also very popular locally and has become a real community focus.