Constellations Bar

A courtyard canopy in the heart of the Baltic Triangle

A few years back, we were approached to design and make an outdoor multi-use venue for Liverpool’s burgeoning creative district, The Baltic Triangle. Constellations Bar was a dream project for us. Firstly, the client was fantastic – dynamic, brave, motivated, and trusting. Secondly, the site was an industrial courtyard full of potential and intrigue. Lastly, it was going to be made in wood, which is our specialist subject and the material we love.

Taking inspiration from both the name of the district and the gabled rooflines of the surrounding Victorian warehouses, we developed a triangle motif that formed the basis of the structure and its components

An undulating roof line

Lengths of standard construction timber were used to create a waffle-like canopy that slopes up and down to frame three different sections. The first two accommodate a bar, while the third can be used for special functions like weddings or a DJ booth.

The angles of the zigzagging roofline run parallel with the profiles of the ageing brick warehouses directly behind, while the exposed soffit creates a pattern of tessellating triangles.

The undulations of the canopy create a variety of atmospheric spaces – beer hall, dining room, and intimate seating area. However, these spaces are unified by the regular pattern of the roof structure.

Quadrapods of green oak

The canopy is held in place by ten A-frame supports, which we call "quadrapods". Made from green oak (unseasoned timber full of moisture) these frames double up as benches or tables.

Glue-laminated timber beams carry the load of the canopy, and these then project outwards from the roofline, allowing simple rainwater drainage.

We prefabricated all the components for the build in our workshop, and they were slotted together on site in just three days. This was a key feature of the project: from being approached as designers, to the venue opening, was a little over 3 months. This timetable was only possible because we were able to bypass the usual information production and tendering stages, and design and make in-house.

We also created a set of bespoke stools, benches and tables for the space, all constructed from green oak. These triangular elements can be slotted together to make larger pieces of furniture and staging. Large planters made from recycled builders' bags bring greenery and vibrancy to the space. All these components are reconfigurable in order to accommodate the rolling calendar of arts events, performances and cinema screenings

The project was widely published, and received a number of awards and nominations....

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Project credits:

Design and construction: H. Miller Bros
Client: Becky Pope, Nick Baskerville, Paul Seiffert
Engineer: Paul Clark, Materian Ltd.
Landscape and planting: Gemma Jerome
Furniture construction: Mike Kerslake
Photography is by Robert Holmes.

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