Haworth Tompkins has renovated Bristol’s Grade I-listed Old Vic theatre – the oldest constantly operating theatre in the English speaking planet – to make “a public space for the city”.

The architecture studio has replaced a huge side extension created by British architect Peter Moro, which was added to the Georgian theatre in 1972, with a new huge public space.

Bristol Old Vic Theatre by Haworth Tompkins

“The 1970s alterations, though conceptually clear and skilfully realised, divided the audience into two unconnected foyers, closed off the theatre’s public facade and more than formalised the arrival and circulation spaces through the converted Coopers’ Hall,” stated Haworth Tompkins.

“As a consequence [it] could no linger fulfil its historic goal as a public space for the city.”

Bristol Old Vic Theatre by Haworth Tompkins

Haworth Tompkins’ renovation focused on opening up and revealing the original spaces. The new foyer has been conceived as “an informal extension of the street”, occupying the space freed up by removing the 1970s studio theatre.

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A structure of timber and glass frames the original brick facade of the Georgian auditorium, into which new openings have been produced.

Bristol Old Vic Theatre by Haworth Tompkins

On the street, a new facade abuts the Grade I-listed Coopers’ Hall, incorporating a series of movable, sun-shading shutters that double as a public art operate.

Operated by hand, these shutters function the text of the inaugural address provided at the theatre by David Garrick in 1766.

The “direct and informal” foyer detailing was selected to make the sense that the entryway is a mediator amongst the street and the historic auditorium.

Bristol Old Vic Theatre by Haworth Tompkins

“Supplies have been selected for their durability and capacity to mature and modify more than time,” stated the practice.

The wooden structure is constructed from Douglas Fir, which will darken more than time, and an oak lath screen in the foyer is created to bend organically.

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Bristol Old Vic Theatre by Haworth Tompkins

Inside the adjacent Coopers’ Hall the new studio theatre occupies the ground and basement levels, leaving the original historic wall structure exposed. Ground-level windows deliver natual light.

Above, the initial floor has been converted back into a grand public space, in a position to act as either an extension of the foyer or a private function space.

Bristol Old Vic Theatre by Haworth Tompkins

Steve Tompkins, a founder at the practice, was lately named the most influential figure in British theatre in The Stage magazine’s Theatre 100 listings.

As effectively as Bristol Old Vic, the practice has lately completed The Bridge theatre in London, created new spaces for the Donmar Warehouse and performed operate on the UK’s National Theatre.

The architecture studio’s Liverpool Everyman Theatre was awarded the 2014 RIBA Stirling Prize.

Photography is by Philip Vile.

Project credits:

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Architect: Haworth Tompkins
Architecture group: Beatie Blakemore, Tom Gibson, Toby Johnson, Will Mesher, Michael Putman, Steve Tompkins, Roger Watts
Primary contractor: Gilbert-Ash
Theatre consultant: Charcoalblue
Structural engineer: Momentum
Service engineer: Max Fordham
Acoustic engineer: Charcoalblue
Quantity surveyor: Gardiner and Theobold
Contract administrator: GVA Acuity
Client representative: Plann


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