East Ayrshire Council / East Ayrshire Leisure
Alistair Kidd / Anneke Freel
2017 - Kilmarnock Cultural Quarter, 2021 - Ongoing - Cultural Kilmarnock
“Can you please pass on my thanks to your team for all the efforts in getting this LUF submission over the line. Particular thanks need to go to the team at Keppie…very much appreciated.”
Alistair Kidd, Architecture and Projects Manager, East Ayrshire Council
The architectural masterplan vision and concept design for The Palace Theatre & Grand Hall form part of EAC and EAL proposals to invest in the ‘Cultural Kilmarnock’ project, the proposals comprise; the development of a new cultural park for the town which includes the sensitive refurbishment and extension for The Palace Theatre and Grand Hall – as an initial phase and catalyst for wider improvements, the creation of new public realm and active travel and wayfinding links within the cultural park, and improved connections to Kilmarnock Water (to the rear of the Palace Theatre) and to Kilmarnock town centre.
The masterplan vision brings together the town’s key heritage assets and re-presents these in an improved parkland and public realm setting, as well as helping to better connect them to the main town centre and primary shopping area.
Securing UK Government Levelling Up Fund investment for the project will support the long-term economic viability of The Palace Theatre & Grand Hall and Dick Institute, preserve the viability of important listed buildings for future-generations, make the cultural and ‘events-focused’ offer more prominent in Kilmarnock, with an overarching aim to bolster footfall, dwell-time, local expenditure and improving the vibrancy and vitality of Kilmarnock town centre.
The site comprises circa 3.5 ha (34,700 sqm) sited immediately to the east of Kilmarnock town centre which benefits from a rich history of culturally significant heritage assets, including The Palace Theatre and Grand Hall, and the Dick Institute, which are Grade A and Grade B Listed. The challenge however is to make more of Kilmarnock’s cultural offering, through reimagining key spaces, enhancing the setting of the listed buildings and using culture to diversify the town centre offer. This in turn will generate new visitors, footfall, greater dwell time and help to positively change the perceptions of the place.
The project has various elements which collectively form part of the overall Cultural Kilmarnock project and the contribution towards achieving the vision:
- A reimagined Palace Theatre and Grand Hall – These proposed works will comprise extensive refurbishment including new back and front of house provision, improved amenity offer (new café bar) and creation of a new fully accessible shared foyer/entrance to create a more positive visitor experience as well as greater prominence for the building, given it provides an important gateway to Kilmarnock Town Centre. The proposals will maximise the efficiencies of the building, creating flexibility to host a wider range of events and attract key touring companies, as well as provide the opportunity to deliver added social value and benefits, including the establishment of a new youth theatre company.
- Enhanced Parkland Setting – Extensive public realm improvements will create an enhanced parkland setting and maximise the links between the Palace Theatre and Kilmarnock Water with the addition of a new pedestrian bridge. New amenity space will be provided including the opportunity for outdoor performance space, creation of natural amphitheatre (having a seating capacity of up to 150 people) and a new pop-up café.
- Improved Public Realm to create a new Cultural Park – Together with the proposals for the rear of the Palace Theatre, 10,500 sqm of new public realm is to be created and/or enhanced, which will include an improved setting for the Dick Institute, as well as the installation of a new canopy which provides the opportunity for event and external performance space.
- Connectivity to the Town Centre –Cultural Kilmarnock is just 300m away from the heart of the town centre but is segregated by dominating highway infrastructure (Sturrock Street – A735) and a poorly lit, unpleasant underpass provides the only link from the Theatre into the town centre. The project includes for the removal of the underpass and replacement with a future ‘at grade’ crossing. This will provide better connections with the Burns Mall and on Sturrock Street.
- Implementation of new green and active travel corridor and wayfinding strategy within the heart of the Cultural Park (2,340 sqm). This will provide connections into the proposed Infinity Loop, creating better active travel links to the north and east of the site, including Kilmarnock town centre.
- Creation of a Cultural Asset trail for the town centre – encompassing the benefits of the enhanced Cultural Park alongside the wider offering within the town centre including the White Tiled building, the Civic Centre, the Railway Heritage Village, and the former Grange Church which now provides a leisure offer – Above Adventure.
Cultural Kilmarnock overarching vision is to create an enduring and vibrant area of cultural significance within Kilmarnock, as well as for East Ayrshire, and providing an attractive cultural park to the town, which aligns with the ambition for the town centre. The aim is for this project to act as a catalyst to drive forward the regeneration of the town centre. Looking ahead, architecturally we look forward to progressing with the client team the improvements to the public realm, accessibility, visibility and offering of The Palace Theatre & Grand Hall at the heart of the vision.