The Jerwood DanceHouse, Ipswich Building, Suffolk Architecture Project, Design, Image

The Jerwood DanceHouse, Ipswich

Arts Development by John Lyall Architects in Ipswich, England, UK

13 Oct 2009

Design: John Lyall Architects

Location: Ipswich, Suffolk, IP4 1DW, south east England, UK

Phone: 01473 295230

Emaik: info(at)

The Jerwood DanceHouse Ipswich building
photo : Morley von Sternberg

The Jerwood DanceHouse Ipswich

Architectural Statement

Cranfields Mill, the site of the Jerwood DanceHouse, sits on the north side of the Orwell in Ipswich, to the south of the town centre. Until ten years ago, it was a working flourmill, receiving grain cultivated in the great East Anglia bread basket, milling it, and sending it out across the world in ships that came up the estuary to the port at Ipswich.

After it closed, the East of England Development Agency (EEDA) bought the mill. Their aim was to commission in its place a high quality civic development that would contribute to the regeneration of this prime area of river frontage – the stretch of the Orwell which is closest to Ipswich town centre. So, in 2002, EEDA and Ipswich Borough Council launched a competition for teams of developers and architects to propose schemes to regenerate the Cranfield Mills site. The developers Wharfside Regeneration and John Lyall Architects entered together.

The Jerwood DanceHouse Ipswich interior
photograph : Morley von Sternberg

How DanceEast became part of the scheme

An architect with a long involvement in dance, John Lyall was delighted by the prospect of designing spaces for dance as part of the development and sought out the director of the well-established East Anglia dance agency, DanceEast to begin discussions. It emerged that Assis Carreiro’s ambition had long been to deliver a new home for the organisation and she had already prepared a brief for a notional new dance centre of 1500 sqm (in fact the new DanceHouse is larger, at 2500 sq m) as part of the Cranfields Mill development.

EEDA and Ipswich Borough Council’s brief included a home for DanceEast. EEDA agreed to transfer part of its freehold to Wharfside Regeneration at no cost to pay for the construction of the shell and core of the then unnamed DanceHouse. DanceEast would be responsible for raising the money for the fit-out.

The Wharfside/Lyall team won the competition and construction began in late 2006. The overall Cranfields Mill scheme is now known as ‘The Mill’. The Mill comprises some 375 new apartments and duplexes, plus restaurants, bars and shops and a rejuvenation of the historic waterfront, as well as the Jerwood DanceHouse.

Jerwood Dance House Jerwood Dance House Ipswich Jerwood Dance House Building Jerwood Dance House exterior
photos : Richard Bryant

Jerwood DanceHouse – The Architecture

When the tin façade was removed from the front of the old mill building, remnants of the 1848 façade were found to be intact beneath. While much of the old building has been demolished, part of this façade is integrated into the new scheme, while the roof line of the lower elements of the new scheme recalls the rhythm of the roofline of the Victorian mill.

The 1940s concrete grain silos, now gone, also provided a design precedent. Typical of East Anglia’s industrial history, the silos were plain and square and the equivalent of about 15 storeys in height. John Lyall, who today lives in Suffolk, has longstanding family connections with the county. ‘I knew,’ he says, ‘that the Ipswich waterfront had enormous potential. I felt very strongly that our building had to be big and bold.’ He took the precedent and developed it: the new tower is 23 storeys high and is the tallest building in East Anglia.

A further inspiration for the architect was the image of the white lighthouse, typical of the East Anglia coast. The tower, with its white façade and accents of brightly coloured render reflected in the water, is also an echo of the traditional lighthouse that Lyall became familiar with during family holidays spent at Southwold. ‘The building had to respond to the acres of air and water in front of it,’ he explains.

Also reflecting the quite intricate architecture of the old mill are the new development’s complex interlocking building masse. In addition, the old mill’s colonnade has been acknowledged with a new waterfront colonnade, over which sit the new offices of the DanceEast organisation.

Jerwood DanceHouse studio
image © DanceEast

The Jerwood DanceHouse Ipswich : Further Information

Jerwood Dance House
picture from architect

The Jerwood DanceHouse Ipswich images / information received 131009

John Lyall Architects

Location: Cranfield Mills, Ipswich, England, United Kingdom

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