Woolwich Creative District Seating Units
Building 41 is part of the first phase of Royal Borough of Greenwich’s project to convert buildings on the Royal Arsenal site, predominantly unused riverside Grade II and II* listed buildings, into a 16,500-square-metre creative hub for multiple cultural occupiers. Having completed the performance infrastructure, theatre planning and performance lighting equipment in Building 41, SSV led on a project to fit out the completed building shell and turn it into an intimate performance space.
The client – Woolwich Works Trust a charity who run the Cultural Centre, described their brief as wanting to create an intimate ambiance within he open factory space for jazz and comedy. The seating would form all around a stage, with good sightlights o the performers. The seating would also incorporate an eating and drinking shelf and lighting. When not needed, the seating would be stored around the room.
SSV reviewed retractable seating mechanisms and set about designing an adaptation incorporating a drinks shelf behind high backed benches with integrated lighting. Thinking of the history of the space and the true use of metal in war, we sought to find a peaceful and beautiful use of the same metal in the choice of woven Brass mesh for the side panels of the seating and perforated brass cylindrical lights. The upholstery natural fibres of leather and herringbone tweed were sourced in Scotland.
Ten mobile retractable seating units can be configured in multiple arrangements. In combination with cabaret seating these create a high capacity and well connected audience for jazz and comedy. To further induce the warm atmosphere removable lamps and folding tables on the retractable seats give the same quality of experience as the cabaret seats with excellent sightlines to the performance. The seating units can also be used to provide suitable sightlines behind row seating when the end-stage orientation is used for a performance. A mobile control position tower also allows a spacious sound and lighting position with optimum position for mixing and operation in any layout. When not in use these units can be retracted and stored out of the way, including moved out of the building, to maximise the flexibility of the venue.
This project took place during the restrictions of the Covid-19 Pandemic which influenced the design to ensure the units could be used with restrictions in place. The dimensions, number of seats in a row and seating layouts were planned so that groups of 2-6 people could be seated together and there were 1m spaces between groups. The aisles and tables also allowed for easy serving by wait staff allowing audience members to order drinks to their seats. This made the units suitable for distancing regulations as well as normal operation.
Woolwich Works opened in September 2021 and other buildings in the Woolwich Creative district are to follow.