Flexible Theatre Design

Designing a theatre is proving to be a complex task.. I’ve been using case studies to help me understand flexible theatre design.
My plan is a ‘Performing Arts Centre’: described by Building Type Basics for Performing Arts Facilities as:

‘generally built by public entities or nonprofit organisations. Consisting of one or more performance spaces, they typically house several local resident companies as well as a wide range of touring productions.’ – ‘Often built to foster urban revitalisation  and for economic development as much as for cultural needs.’ – ‘They may include one or more theatres, most typically a large, multi-purpose theatre of 2000-2700 seats, a smaller theatre of 350-750 seats and sometimes a flexible studio theatre seating 75-250.’ – Hardy, 2006, page 4

Its a huge task, I know, but the existing building on my site (Radford Mill) is physically big enough to house this comfortably.

In order to promote financial and artistic flexibility I intend to design a theatre space with flexibility, and so have looked at some case studies to investigate solutions. Here are two examples; the first is smaller and involves the rearranging of seating, the second is on a much larger scale and it is the stage itself that adapts.

Pages from EV D+A statement

Clip from Everyman Theatre Development Design and Access Statement, May 2010, Haworth Tompkins, Page 18

The auditorium in the new Liverpool Everyman is impressive in many ways, some obvious, others not. Perhaps the most inconspicuous are the chairs (Artistic Director Gemma Bodinetz described the process wonderfully at TEDxLiverpool – see here). Although typically kept in the Thrust stage layout, the chairs can be rearranged to suit a number of performance styles.


Pages from D&A

Clip from RE:NEW Chester’s Culture Centre Design and Access Statement June 2014, Bennetts Associates Architects, page xxxi

My local Odeon, a 1936, grade II listed, 1600 seat, art deco ‘super-cinema’ has been empty since 2007. Now, Re:NEW Chester are renovating and extending it into a cinema, library and theatre, and I think the designs look fantastic. The theatre will both produce and receive theatre and so the stage has been designed to transform from a 800 seat touring auditorium with proscenium stage into a 500 seat festival theatre with a new thrust stage.

As I type this, it’s 1st January 2015 in New Zealand. Happy New Year!


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