Guy Hollaway Architects’ Elwick Place delivers a regenerative project at the heart of Ashford Town Centre, and the first new build cinema for Picturehouse in the UK

Guy Hollaway Architects have completed Elwick Place, a £26m leisure complex for regeneration specialists and property developers Stanhope PLC on behalf of Ashford Borough Council.

One of Ashford’s Big 8 regeneration projects, Elwick Place, sits opposite County Square shopping centre in the heart of town and comprises a 1,000-seat, six-screen Picturehouse cinema, 9 food and drink outlets, a new meeting and events space at Elwick Square, a 58 room Travelodge hotel, new homes, and a surface car park of 282 spaces.

Designed to stimulate Ashford’s day and night economy, the project is set to offset some of the recent high street and town centre decline that has been felt more widely across the UK. Elwick Place is expected to provide hundreds of jobs and be a catalyst for further regeneration and investment in the area.

Guy Hollaway Architects’ masterplan for the project includes a new public square designed to contribute to a sense of destination at the heart of Ashford’s town centre, and cultivate a sense of community with cafes, restaurants, film screenings, events and pop up markets which will bring energy into the town throughout the day and into the evening. A new public walkway improves city centre and pedestrian flow, strengthening the link to the existing and much used public footbridge and enhancing connectivity to the railway station and Victoria Park to the south of Ashford.

Working within the constraints of a tight budget and a highly technical cinema specification, Guy Hollaway Architects has developed an innovative facade concept to give Elwick Place its distinctive visual presence. Taking the series of black boxes typical of the acoustic and visual integrity required of cinema design, the practice has wrapped the building at first floor level with sections of gold, woven, anodized aluminium mesh to create a sculptural, articulated and softly tapering form.

The practice worked closely with LightIQ to develop a dynamic lighting scheme. The mesh reflects daylight to create a subtly changing and opaque facade and then after dusk, illuminated within, the mesh becomes a transparent gauze and beacon for Ashford’s nightlife. A terrace bar with glazed balustrade features at the west elevation leading out from the cinema bar and allowing cinema-goers to enjoy a drink outside overlooking activities below. A gold aluminum composite cladding on the Travelodge towards the eastern end of the cinema creates a complementary dialogue between the two anchor buildings of the scheme.

Guy Hollaway Architects has collaborated with artists on the project to include features designed to celebrate Ashford’s market town heritage. The original cattle market gateposts have been recovered and painstakingly restored by artist Jonathon Wright. The Elwick Etchings, a public art project by Strange Cargo sees 100 personal reminiscences and stories from the people of Ashford engraved into paving slabs to ensure that the voices of its past are an integral part of its future.

Guy Hollaway Architects is set to deliver a number of other projects as part of Ashford’s ongoing regeneration including the new Curious Brewery for the Chapel Down Group, and extensive adjacent masterplanning including a 120 bed hotel, supermarket and around 1000 new homes.

Guy Hollaway of Guy Hollaway Architects said,

“This is the first new build ‘Picturehouse’ cinema in the country and will create a new destination for Ashford, giving people a reason to come into the town centre in the evenings. When so many towns are building out of town cinemas, Ashford is bucking the trend and investing in its town centre to bring about positive change.”

Gary Bourne, Development Director at Stanhope said,

“We hope that Elwick Place will become an important part of the future of Ashford as a whole, while celebrating its unique heritage and importance to the people of Ashford.”