Bristol Old Vic

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Application Type

Civic Trust Awards

Level of Award

Highly Commended

Region

South West

Local Authority Area

Bristol

Information about this scheme

Bristol Old Vic is the oldest continuously working theatre in the English-speaking world, completed in 1766. The auditorium has survived largely intact but successive alterations to the street frontage over the years culminated in 1972 with a new foyer and studio theatre by the respected British architect Peter Moro, whose scheme incorporated the neighbouring historic Coopers’ Hall as the main entrance and circulation space. The auditorium and back of house spaces were renovated by architect Andrzej Blonski in 2012.  Increasingly, however, audiences had become disengaged from the theatre, which appeared sealed off from the street.  The 1970s alterations, although conceptually clear and skilfully realised, divided the audience into two unconnected foyers, closed off the theatre’s public façade with the new studio and over-formalised the arrival and circulation spaces via the converted Coopers’ Hall, which as a consequence could no longer fulfil its historic purpose as a public room for the city.  Radical change was required to address these issues, and so the decision was taken to remove and rebuild entirely the 1972 foyer and studio, replacing them with a more welcoming and legible foyer space, a new studio theatre in the lower half of the Coopers' Hall and a reinstated grand public room as originally located in its upper half. Materials have been chosen for their durability and capacity to mature and change over time.  The Douglas Fir structure will darken and deepen in colour, whilst a delicate oak lath screen along one side of the foyer is designed to bend and flex organically.  A copper bar and concrete floor will become patinated with use, as will oak upper floors and painted stair balustrades.  Detailing is direct and informal, allowing junctions to retain an almost outdoor language to heighten the sense of the foyer as a mediator between the street and the historic buildings that form its edges. The scheme uses structural timber and timber linings for new elements including frame, roof, and external façade.  The foyer and new studio are naturally ventilated via a large intake plenum and a pre-cooling labyrinth, with thermostatically controlled high level and low-level opening windows.  The moveable façade shutters are designed to optimise summer shading and winter solar heating.  An exposed concrete floor and existing found masonry surfaces throughout the space contribute thermal mass, and brickwork from demolition operations was recycled and incorporated into new walls and masonry repairs. The redevelopment has created a warm and welcoming venue to attract wider audiences, designed to place the theatre at the heart of the city.

Credits

Architect

Haworth Tompkins

Main Contractor

Gilbert-Ash

Structural Engineer

Momentum

Services Engineer

Max Fordham

Acoustic Consultant

Charcoalblue

Theatre Consultant

Charcoalblue

Quantity Surveyor

Gardiner and Theobald

Project Director

Plann

Project Manager

GVA Acuity

Primary Use Class

Class D2g - Theatre