400 Hall Theatre, Repton School Building, Derbyshire Development, England Architecture
400 Hall Theatre, England
English Education Building – design by Avery Associates
15 Jul 2013
Repton School Theatre
Design: Avery Associates
Location: Derbyshire, England
Repton School 400 Hall Theatre
Avery Associates Architects’ new 400 Hall Theatre at Repton School has just won a Royal Institute of British Architects East Midlands Regional Award, and its Building of the Year Award, the top prize for the region. Last year, it won the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors Design and Innovation Award and the Chartered Institute of Architectural Technologists Gold Award for Technical Excellence.
Repton School is a famous independent public school, founded in 1559 and located in a small Derbyshire village. The School’s core ambition was to provide a flexible, state-of-the-art auditorium with a minimum of 300 seats, plus a new foyer of commensurate size, all for a building budget of £2.25 million.
The existing theatre, though a significant building within the campus and strategically located at the confluence of key routes, was little more than an assembly room and not the best facility in which to teach or practice modern theatre. Furthermore, with a very small and mostly hidden foyer, it was poorly equipped for engaging with the rest of the school, still less the wider community.
With this in mind, the London-based architectural firm, Avery Associates Architects, set out to make good these deficiencies. The practice has a very high reputation in theatre design, being the architects for the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) in London, arguably the UK’s most prestigious drama school.
The new theatre has been inserted into the shell of the existing hall, preserving the character of this much-loved campus icon and greatly reducing construction costs, while a separate, single storey foyer has been built alongside.
The theatre has a capacity of 315 seats on two levels, much in the manner of the horseshoe form developed for the Jerwood Vanbrugh Theatre at RADA. It uses the same ancient geometry of two intersecting circles to unify the worlds of the actor and audience and thus bring an intensity to the stage experience. In addition, stage-levelling and ‘proscenium-flap’ devices give an extraordinary variety of performance options.
While the major changes to the hall are almost entirely internal and invisible externally, the new foyer is the necessary outward expression of the project. It has been set at an angle, in part to counterpoint the axial symmetry of the hall, but also to respond to the picturesque irregularity of the context and the diagonal lines-of-sight linking the Chapel, the Arch and the Old School beyond.
These angles have been translated into a planning grid as a rhythm of equilateral triangles. The governing dimension for these triangles is a side width of 1.65m, the dimension from the floor to the eye level of the architect. This height doubled (3.3m) is the ceiling height and the proportion of 3.3/1.65 (2/1) is the size of every glass panel. In this way the floor, ceiling and walls are all coordinated by a unifying geometry which relates directly to the human scale and gives the structure an elegant serenity.
Within this harmony a white glass prism has been placed, the centrepiece of the new foyer. This acts both as a backdrop for foyer performances and, when illuminated internally at night, as a welcoming beacon for visitors. During the day the long, sheltering roof cantilever casts the interior into shade therefore above the prism a large rooflight has been fitted with adjustable mirrors to reflect light down, backlighting the glass. The prism thus appears to glow ethereally in an ever-changing pattern of shadows, bringing nature in all its capriciousness into a dialogue with the geometrical rationality of the building.
400 Hall Theatre – Building Information
Architect (RIBA Stages A-G): Avery Associates Architects
Architect (RIBA Stages H-L): Tony Simms (Matthew Montague Architects)
Client: The Governors of Repton School
Quantity Surveyor: Armsons
Theatre Consultant: Charcoalblue Ltd
Services Engineer: Fulcrum Consulting
Acoustician: Paul Gillieron Acoustic Design
Structural Engineer: SDA Burton
Construction Design & Management Co-ordinators: CJ Consilium Ltd
Repton School 400 Hall Theatre images / information from Avery Associates
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