Cambridge Arts Theatre
Cambridge, United Kingdom
2021 – present
Client: Cambridge Arts Theatre Trust
Status: RIBA Stage 4
Project Manager: Savills
Service Engineer: Buro Happold
Theatre Consultant: Charcoalblue
Heritage Consultant: Alan Baxter Associates
Strategic Arts Advisor: Harper Tackley
Planning Consultants: Turleys
The complete refurbishment of the existing, grade II listed, 600 seat auditorium alongside the creation of a new 200 seat studio theatre.
The ambition for the main auditorium is focused around retaining the innate character of the space loved by those who know the theatre; a combination of the unique proximity of audience and performer, alongside it’s unrivalled acoustic performance, particularly for the spoken word. Inspired by historic images of the original design, the proposal looks to reinstate some of the original finishes, whilst providing a new curved balcony front and upgrading the theatrical services to bring the theatre to the forefront of technical provision. New seating layouts, regraded floors and balcony front will improve sightlines for the audience and widened proscenium will allow a greater variety of performances to be received. New sound and light lock lobbies separating the main house and the second space will improve acoustics and allow shows to run concurrently.
At third and fourth floors, a new 200 seat studio theatre space will replace the unused restaurant; providing Cambridge Arts Theatre with the ability to increase their repertoire of incoming shows, whilst also expand on the opportunity for a variety of different endeavours, including in-house productions, collaborations with educational faculties, as well as facilitating a more diverse range of shows and performance types.
Constructed as a box-in-box construction, with structural and acoustic separation to the main auditorium the new studio theatre
is proposed to be built with a hybrid construction of cross laminated timber, steel and brickwork, utilising the best qualities of each material to create a lean but effective solutions; the pre-fabricated CLT box providing a low embodied carbon framework which will be quick to construct whilst the solid masonry outer box will provide durability and density to achieve the desired acoustic performance. Taking inspiration from the civic scale of 1930’s modernist theatres, the windowless facade is broken up with a variety of brickwork detailing, creating articulation and shadow. At roof level, in response to the Cambridge’s city of turrets and spires, new brickwork chimney figures serve as natural ventilation stacks over the stage, whilst forming deliberate articulation and figure from Peas Hill.