Darlington Hippodrome and Theatre Hullabaloo

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Special Award

Selwyn Goldsmith Award for Universal Design

Application Type

Universal Design

Level of Award

Award

Region

North East

Local Authority Area

Darlington

Information about this scheme

This project comprises the refurbishment, remodelling and extension of a much-loved Grade II Edwardian Theatre and a purpose designed Children’s theatre.  The scheme as a whole has become a cultural hub and a focus for community activities. The intention of the project was to maximise inclusion, with the Social Model of disability underpinning the approach. As would be anticipated with a structure dating form 1906, there were many accessibility obstacles to overcome. The theatre had three different public entrances. The main entrance was stepped only, while an alternative entrance was not always in operation, and wheelchair users were required to make specific access requests. Internally, there were many changes in level and the venue did not include passenger lifts to key upper levels including the main ‘feature’ bar, and the Dress and Upper Circles, thereby excluding people with mobility impairments. Wheelchair user positions within the auditorium seating area were very limited and offered poor choice of location. Existing back-of-house facilities were completely inaccessible to mobility-impaired performers and wayfinding principles, in terms of colour and luminance contrast and signage and lighting strategies were poor. The situation was compounded through poor physical access throughout. The completed scheme addresses these issues and significantly improves inclusion by rationalisation of levels and considered location of passenger lifts; facilitating access to all levels and providing unique facilities for all. Wheelchair audience positions have been significantly increased in number and choice of location. The new back-of-house facilities include accessible sanitary provision, showers and dressing rooms. A ‘Family’ WC area is included that increases the level of sanitary provision and includes high and lower-level WC pans. Following consultation with Darlington Action on Disability (DAD), it was requested that Unisex Accessible WC’s should be increased in width over standard dimension to accommodate electric scooter users and these have been included throughout. Additionally, DAD also expressed an aspiration to include an evacuation-standard passenger lift for easier and more rapid evacuation of disabled and older people. Again, this has been incorporated in the scheme. An audio description booth is included (to assist blind or partially sighted) and this also serves as a ‘withdrawal’ space for use by autistic audience members. Induction loops are installed at every service point. ‘Considered’ signage, lighting and the application of wayfinding principles has been incorporated to assist people with sensory, cognitive and intellectual impairments.

Credits

Architect

Space Architects

Conservation Architect

Space Architects

Interior Designer

Space Architects

Client

Darlington Borough Council

Structural Engineer

Billinghurst George Partnership

Services Engineer

Cundall (MEP)

Quantity Surveyor

Willmott Dixon

Theatre Design

Charcoal Blue (Equipment)

Theatre Consultant

Theatresearch

Main Contractor

Willmott Dixon Construction

CDMC

Todd Milburn

Local Authority

Darlington Borough Council

Other

Access Consultation - Darlington Action on Disability (DAD)

Primary Use Class

Sui Generis - Other Use Class not listed above