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UK Centre for Carnival Arts’ building wins prestigious architecture accolade

  • Date: 3 June 2011
  • Area: National, South East
image of  the carnival arts building

The UK Centre for Carnival Arts, Luton, designed by Ash Sakula Architects. Credit: Hardish Virk

The impressive purpose-built home for the UK Centre for Carnival Arts (UKCCA) in Luton has won a prestigious 2011 Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) award for its architectural design.

Funded by Arts Council England, the UKCCA is a creative hub and vibrant arts centre dedicated to promoting carnival arts nationally and internationally. This worldwide effort is raising the value, reach and impact of carnival arts, as well as delivering groundbreaking education and outreach activities.

The £7.3 million centre was designed by Ash Sakula Architects with a brief to create a building that reflected the spirit of carnival. With this in mind, the designers used materials to engender a sense of making and experimentation with a tactile, textural and musical quality. 

Glued brickwork forms a continuous wrap round the main building, broken only by full height display windows.  Patterns in white brick, based on samba acoustic rhythms, are stitched into the blue brick on either side of each entrance. The parts of the building that face the courtyard are a composition of separate elements using a multitude of materials: gold and silver metal cladding, timber, glass, brick, bamboo and stainless steel.

Together they create an amalgamation of different architectural forms, rather than a single piece of architecture. This fosters a sense of an artistic community brought together, and cleverly juxtaposed styles reflect the diversity and creativity expressed through the building's use.

The structure is made up of two buildings at either side of a large courtyard with a continuous enclosing perimeter.  Two large gates, one gold, one stainless steel mesh, stand at either end of the courtyard, which is both an over-spill space for activities and is transformed into a street as part of the carnival route.  The larger mas camp building houses performance spaces, a state of the art workshop, teaching spaces and café. The smaller building hosts administrative offices and a childcare facility. 

David Beidas, Building Project Manager, UKCCA, commented: 'It's fantastic news for our architects, Ash Sakula, and recognises the very distinctive building they have designed, which truly reflects the spirit of carnival.  One of our aims from the outset was to produce a quality building for Luton and this shows that we have achieved it.'

The official launch of the UKCCA was in May 2009, as the country's first dedicated centre of excellence for carnival arts. And it was no coincidence the Centre was based in Luton; the town is home to the UK's biggest one day carnival, Luton International Carnival.

Earlier in 2009, the keys to the new building were handed over in a ceremony by Barbara Follett, then Minister for Culture and for the East of England. Two time capsules containing carnival mementoes were also buried in the garden by Levi Roots and leading members of the carnival community.

Principle project funders

UKCCA has been funded by a dynamic partnership including Arts Council England, the East of England Development Agency, GO East, European Regional Development Fund and Luton Borough Council.

To find out more about the UKCCA go to the website.