Revised plans submitted for Ipswich Waterfront arts hub

A CGI image of what the new-look Burtons arts and media hub could look like. Picture: DAN FISHER

An earlier CGI picture of what the Ipswich Waterfront development could look like - Credit: Dan Fisher

Revised plans for an arts and media hub at the former Burtons site on the Ipswich Waterfront have been submitted to the borough council.

Plans to convert the site into a creative space were granted approval by Ipswich Borough Council in December, with the development split between the main concrete-framed building and the lower brick warehouse building next-door.

As part of those plans, the smaller building will become the new home of the Gecko Theatre, while the larger building would be increased by three storeys and converted into a restaurant or cafe, offices and up to 14 self-contained flats.

The former Burtons building on Ipswich Waterfront. Picture: LUCY TAYLOR

The main Burtons building, which is set to be extended by three stories - Credit: Archant

The revision however solely covers the theatre side of the development, with changes proposed to help make the centre more Covid-compliant and to strengthen its relationship with the local area. It also comes after decontamination gave developers greater insight on the structural limits of the building. 

The internal layout has been flipped in the revised plans, with the space used for theatre rehearsal and dances moved to the rear of the building, while the main entrance moved from Foundry Lane to face St Peters Wharf.

A mixed-use dance studio, props workshop and reception area have all been shifted to the front of the building at ground floor level, which will be visible to the public. The theatre also plans to animate the spaces during the evening using lighting.

In a statement submitted as part of the plans, Gecko Theatre said the changes would not only help to strengthen its connection, but help make it safer for staff and users.

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The statement read: "Flipping the design provided many opportunities to strengthen the connection between the building and the public realm spaces outside, as well as allowing Gecko to consider the operational needs of the company.

"Initially our focus when reviewing the building design was very much on strengthening the connection between the activities inside and the public realm. But as the pandemic continued, the company became increasingly aware of the need to design the building so that it could operate as a Covid-secure work space.

"During the pandemic, the majority of the company’s activities were placed on hold. Activities such as educational workshops and training, along with Facebook Live sessions with our artistic director were shifted online, with staff broadcasting from spaces within their own homes with varying degrees of success.

"During this early design phase we realised there was an opportunity to adapt the design to allow the Gecko team to access and work in the venue separately from each other should the need arise again.

"By making the building Covid-secure, not only can Gecko continue online activities broadcast safely from the Creation Space, but this increased flexibility allows the building to work in multiple modes, strengthening the company’s business resilience.”

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