Bristol Old Vic
Level of Award
Local Authority Area
Information about this scheme
Bristol Old Vic’s history is one of the evolving nature of public buildings, levels of accessibility and democracy. Alterations to the street frontage had brought major problems to accessibility, facing further challenges posed by its existing listed site dating back to the 1760s.
The piecemeal nature of the succession of refurbishments has resulted in a myriad of levels, from the original Georgian auditorium, to the 2012 Capital Project phase 1 works, and most significantly, the 1970s Moro works - although conceptually clear and skilfully realised, the alterations 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. Consultation groups were established during the early stages of the design process. Workshops were held with wheelchair users and visitors with, for example, ambulant disabilities and visual impairment. To provide full universal accessibility for the first time in Bristol Old Vic’s history, a new lift core was located behind the Coopers’ Hall (adjacent the new Box Office) to tie together all existing and proposed floor levels. This passenger lift serves the new Studio Theatre, main auditorium levels, foyer levels and new staff/ back-of-house areas.
The number of ramps and level thresholds in the front-of-house and back-of-house areas were increased to allow easy circulation for wheelchair users. Great attention was paid in providing a sufficient number of wheelchair accessible WCs within a challenging building footprint. Visual contrast for material palette and wayfinding signage designed to aid visitors with visual disability. These were developed through a series of 1:1 prototype tests, undertaken on site with a graphic designer to ensure legibility. Thick door frames were designed in order to avoid the need for glazing manifestation.
The new entrance from the King street approach is also highly visible – the new large ‘Bristol Old Vic’ signage is situated at a high level. Once closer to the building, a neon entrance sign signals the main entrance doors. Automated sensors are installed on main entrance doors. Great attention along with detailed coordination and consultation with Bristol City Council was required to achieve compliant external landscape gradients within the constraints of the King street conservation area.
The new Bristol Old Vic is predicated on a desire to expand the bandwidth of public engagement through a more porous, demotic architecture and the capability to host a more diverse programme of work involving a wider cross section of society, providing a new “room for Bristol”.
Gardiner and Theobald
Primary Use Class
Class D2g - Theatre