The Project

Working closely with Vivark Limited and local architects K2 on the ‘Build Unity Better’ project, we were asked to design, manufacture and install a solar shading system as part of an extensive refurbishment to Unity Theatre, one of Liverpool’s most loved theatres. The premier theatre located in the heart of Liverpool, close to the river Mersey first opened its doors back in the 1930’s and was originally refurbished around sixty-eight years later in 1998. Nineteen years on and their 90’s refurbishment needed a face-lift.  Unity Theatre had three key objectives they wanted to achieve during their 2017 refurb.

  1. Create a world class audience experience to be enjoyed by all

Unity Theatre: “We will make the building more welcoming, and ensure it still feels irredeemably Unity.”

  1. Become a greener and more sustainable organisation

Unity Theatre: “Too hot or too cold? We want to control our heating better to be more energy efficient and make sure Unity is environmentally friendly and a comfortable place to be. These updates will help Unity invest in great new shows rather than utility bills!”

  1. Support artists in imagining, exploring & creating new work

Unity Theatre: “Our two theatres can’t be used at the same time because of sound issues.  We’ll sort this, and update our equipment to make sure we continue to have world class facilities. For audiences this will mean more thrilling shows and more work made in Liverpool.”

Our design team stepped up to the mark, aiming to hit the first two specified objectives. To fulfil the first objective, we aimed to create a unique and dramatically striking external building façade, worthy of theatrical applause, immersing Unity Theatre audiences into the ‘unity experience’ before even entering the building. This award-winning theatre is steeped in history and we wanted to provide a solar shading system that would maintain the integrity of the buildings features, whilst emphasising and celebrating the distinctive character of this renowned organisation.

Unity theatres second objective to become a greener and more sustainable company is where our systems shine, taking fully recyclable and corrosion resistant aluminium alloy, we designed Unity Theatre’s brise soleil to ensure maximum functionality, transforming the building into an energy efficient hub. Not only reducing those unwanted and often expensive heating and air-conditioning bills, but also allowing the theatre to concentrate their finances and efforts on what they do best, putting on an amazing show!

The Solex Halo 300 system designed for the ‘Build Unity Better’ project consists of 300mm diameter elliptical aluminium fins supported by our custom designed support mullions, which are in turn connected to the existing steelwork of the theatre. The matt grey colour chosen for the brise soleil cleverly merges the original steelwork of the building with our newly installed solar shading system to create a unity (pardon the pun) that Unity Theatre could be proud of. Turning the shading system into an integral part of the theatre, with a sense of belonging, rather than a modern system that’s been included nearly two decades after the steelwork was first erected.

Our biggest secret on this project is the actual fixings of the brise soleil system itself, we’d love to tell you how it works, but Shhhh it’s a secret! Our secret fix design cunningly hides the systems fixings, creating the illusion of our fins levitating off the building. You’ll find no unsightly, protruding fixings on this theatre, just simple, smooth lines, sweeping across the steelwork giving the building a halo of stunning sustainable solar shading.

The system, semi-modular in its construction utilised mitred corners that were pre-assembled to allow for speed and ease upon installation. Due to the busy city centre location of the theatre our designers wanted to minimise installation time and reduce the need for extended periods of mobile access working, as not only does this increase the price of the installation for our client but it can also create inconveniences for the nearby public, both factors we aim to minimise as much as possible on each of our projects.

With the site safely barriered off and suitable access found for use in such a tight space, installation commenced. The system was installed in less than a week by a 2-person team, with the entire project from its inception through to completion taking only a few months.

Before refurbishment works began, the theatre featured a highly glazed exterior which during summer months can often cause a rather hot, humid and most unwanted greenhouse effect for the individuals inside. Our Solex Halo 300 system created and designed specifically to meet client specifications, eradicates solar/heat gain before it has chance to enter the building through the glazing. Ensuring that on those beautiful, hot days the theatre and its audiences stay cool as cucumbers in an oasis of calming cool.

With temperature in mind, the theatres internal heat during winter months also needed much consideration. The theatre is funded by Arts Council England and Liverpool City Council and the very last thing Unity Theatre would want to spend their precious funding on are large heating bills due to the UKs temperamental weather conditions. The Solex Halo 300 system our team designed not only looks incredible, it also looks after the pennies, allowing maximum natural daylight to pass through the shading fins, increasing heat within the theatre to comfortable temperatures on those chilly, winter days.

Our innovatively designed, manufactured and installed system really does tick all the boxes. Oh no it doesn’t. Oh yes it definitely does! Cooling in summer, heating in winter, resulting in sizable reductions in energy bills throughout the year.

After the unveiling of Unity Theatre’s most recent refurbishment, they can now officially refer to their building as an environmentally friendly, greener and more sustainable place for members of the public to enjoy

Unity Theatre Company is renowned for its radical and experimental styles, showcasing both classic and contemporary shows. Never following the norm, always carving its own path in the theatre industry. Our completed brise soleil system for the theatre portrays these qualities and characteristics through its design, merging the classical brickwork with our contemporary aluminium fins, maintaining the theatre’s identity whilst encouraging its continual improvement and progression through time.

The small-scale theatre company with big ambitions now has a solar shading system for a small price tag boasting big benefits. Achieving the objectives outlined in our clients’ requirements, we couldn’t be happier with the refreshed face of Unity Theatre and we’re sure that our clients and people of Liverpool feel exactly the same.

We are proud to say we’ve done our part in ‘Building Unity Better’. Whilst theatre-goers of Liverpool grab their popcorn and get ready for the various performances of a lifetime throughout the years to come, our brise soleil stays and remains a permanent attraction of Unity Theatre’s ever-changing schedule.

Quote from Unity Theatre

“We’re very pleased with the service, design and quality of Solinear Limited’s Brise Soleil system. I am happy to report we immediately felt the natural cooling impact of the Brise Soleil after it’s installation. Appearance wise the Brise Soleil really does finish the building and looks as though it should have always been there. It certainly makes the building stand out, in a good way, on Hope Place. We would happily recommend Solinear Limited.”

Specifications

Services Provided

  • Product manufacture
  • Product installation