Storyhouse, Chester

  • © Historic England/John Maltby
  • © Bennetts Associates
  • © Peter Cook
  • © Peter Cook
  • © Peter Cook
  • © Peter Cook
  • © Peter Cook
  • © Peter Cook
  • © Peter Cook
  • © Mark Carline
  • © various photographers

Special Award

Community Impact & Engagement Special Award

Application Type

Civic Trust Awards

Level of Award

Special Award

Region

North West

Local Authority Area

Cheshire West & Chester

Information about this scheme

Housed in the redundant shell of a 1930s art deco cinema in the centre of Chester, Storyhouse is a major new civic cultural hub, presenting drama, film and literature. The innovative city-centre public building is open 12 hours a day, seven days a week and represents a revolution in the way civic, public buildings operate and are perceived. It includes a main theatre space with a large flytower, a studio, a cinema, a city library with over 700m of shelving throughout the building with a café and bar are at ground level. The new extension containing the theatre and studio is conceived as a companion-piece to the cinema and is designed to operate as an 800-seat theatre with a programme of touring productions for part of the year, but is reconfigurable to a 500 seat thrust-stage. Storyhouse incorporates best practice in accessible design in both public and back-of-house areas and reflects the client’s high aspirations. The approach to accessibility has considered the needs of all users and during the design process the team worked with representatives of local disability groups and with Cheshire West and Chester’s access team to enable feedback to be given on the proposals. There is a social dimension to the Storyhouse project which goes beyond the provision of a new public building. The sense of ownership which Chester’s public now has for Storyhouse has arisen through the previous lack of provision, the choice of site, and the engagement of people during the process of design and construction. This included amenity groups such as the Chester Civic Trust; residents’ associations; local cultural groups such as Action Transport Theatre and Theatre in the Quarter; archaeology groups; the local film club, Northgate traders, and many more. A key symbolic moment in the closing stages of the project was the engagement of local schoolchildren to pass books hand-to-hand from the old city library into Storyhouse. The name ‘Storyhouse’ deliberately suggests a move away from the trend for libraries with a retail feel, to a more domestic series of spaces where drama, film and literature can be brought together. The tagline ‘This house is your house, what are you going to do with it?’ hints at the importance of the community agenda in its use and programming.

 “Storyhouse connects people through storytelling, and brings theatre and cinema back to Chester after a decade-long absence.”

Credits

Architect

Bennetts Associates

Client

Cheshire West and Chester Council

Main Contractor

Kier

Theatre Consultant

Charcoalblue

Structural Engineer

WSP

Services Engineer

Foreman Roberts

Acoustic Consultant

Sandy Brown Associates

Planning Consultant

WYG

Historic Buildings Consultant

Tweed Nuttall Warburton/ Peter de Figueiredo

Executive Architect

Ellis Williams

Project Manager

Buro Four

Interior Designer

Hannah Wehbeh

Primary Use Class

Class D2g - Theatre