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De La Salle School, Centre for the Performing Arts
St. Helens, Merseyside, England
John McAslan + Partners

Performance pavilions celebrate music and industrial vernacular

© McAslan + Partners

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Recognized by the British government for its music program, the De La Salle school commissioned John McAslan + Partners to design a new performing arts center that would celebrate its heightened profile while still embracing the Lassalian traditions of the school's Catholic founders. The program includes three flexible performance spaces for dance, music, and drama, as well as two classrooms.

McAslan located the performing arts center adjacent to a parking lot that abuts the school's existing front elevation, thus defining a new landscaped entry courtyard. The center itself is comprised of three linked pavilions: a form derived partly from the program and partly from the vernacular architecture. The three pavilions recall the iconic Victorian furnace towers in the surrounding industrial landscape of Merseyside, a region of England containing the erstwhile manufacturing powerhouses of Liverpool and Manchester.

De La Salle's performing arts center is linked to the existing school building by a glazed entrance block, which allows the center to operate independently during evening hours. Two service and circulation cores punctuate the three pavilions, while a glazed corridor links them and runs from the center's entrance along its southern elevation. Glass walls along the ground level allow views into the newly created landscaping around the building and flood the two classrooms with light. On the second level, the performance rooms feature tall ceilings. Though window-less, these spaces are lit from above by cruciform roof light boxes. The roof and skylights are clad in pale pre-weathered zinc.

Each pavilion, identical in construction, draws from a simple palette of materials that highlights the plan's tripartite rigor. Fair-face concrete sheer walls enclose the ground level classrooms and provide structural support. In the performance spaces, cedar boards and acoustic insulation clad the walls. McAslan also incorporated environmentally responsible climate control features. During summer months, the building uses its thermal mass to provide passive cooling and, in the winter, its mass acts as a heat store. Trickle ventilators on the north and south elevations provide nighttime cooling, while cross ventilation and louvers in the roof lanterns extract stale air from the performance spaces.

Formal name of Project:
De La Salle School, Centre for the Performing Arts

St. Helens, Merseyside, England

Gross square footage:
6,458 sq. ft.

Total construction cost:
$1.4 million

Governors of De La Salle School

John McAslan + Partners
St Johns House
2-10 Queen Street
Manchester, M2 5JB
44-161-833-2037 tel.
44-161-833-2038 fax


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