Photographer Francesco Russo
Structural Engineer: Ward Cole
Contractor: John Martin-Hoyes
Quantity Surveyor: Thornton Firkin
The remodelling and expansion of the Exo Centre bring together a fragmented series of interventions and extensions to unify the existing building, providing space for exhibitions, events and education. In August 2018, Evans McDowall Architects won an invited competition to transform the existing building at the Lincolnshire Agricultural Society’s Showground site. The new Exo Centre was to provide an energy-efficient, cost-effective and robust commercial space that is aesthetically sympathetic to both the showground site and the Lincolnshire Agricultural Society’s heritage and core values.
The general appearance of the existing building was dated and in need of modernisation. The building had two distinctive elements; the linear steel portal frame and the traditional brick-built pitched roof annexe. The linear portal frame structure that houses the main exhibition hall has been stripped back and reclad with vertical western red cedar cladding. The cladding is broken by a horizontal rail that references the detail of farm sheds that can be found throughout rural Lincolnshire. At the lower level, the cladding is planed vertical tongue and grooved boards, with vertical rough sawn hit and miss boards above. The existing tiled roof to the annexe structure was removed and replaced with a new flat roof and the existing brickwork whitewashed to provide an affordable, low carbon method of brightening the approach to the building. The scale of the openings within the existing brick building was also increased to relate to the agricultural scale and proportion of the openings within the main hall.
A new main entrance was constructed to the rear that replicates the painted brickwork detail of the flat-roofed element of the building and accommodates a new changing places facility. This new glazed entrance welcomes visitors and provides views through the building to the activities in the exhibition hall, connecting every visitor with the primary focus of the Exo centre. Each of the entrances is lined with planed vertical western red cedar boards to visually connect the painted brick annexe to the timber-clad portal frame, whilst providing a softer more tactile material quality where people come into contact with the architecture.
Internally, the existing space has been rationalised and the original entrance opened up with a new softly angled wall that invites the public into the reception space. By simplifying the sequence of arrival and creating views through to the exhibition hall and multi-function space, visitors can easily navigate their way around the building. The entrance space is lined with plywood panelling to provide a robust and tactile finish that continues the timber lining of the covered entrance into the building, connecting outside to in.
The environmental design strategy aimed to make use of energy embodied in the existing building and provide extensions that have a building fabric designed to exceed Building Regulation standards. The overall project has embodied sustainable materials and construction methodologies where possible to create a development that has a minimal environmental impact on its immediate and wider context. Through restoration and conversion, the project will secure the life of the building for years to come.