Chichester Festival Theatre was designed by Powell and Moya and opened in 1962. Now over 50 years old and Grade II* listed, the project involved the removal of all previous extensions, returning the building back to its original form, and new back of house facilities for this iconic brutalist style theatre. The Foyer area has been enlarged to include a new café and bar, and the Auditorium remodelled to restore some of the clarity of the original design. The new back of house facilities took the form of a reinforced concrete extension with complimentary Corten Steel cladding.
The theatre’s cantilevering reinforced concrete structure and cable suspended roof were bold architectural statements, but successive piecemeal extensions and alterations since the 1970s gradually reduced the clarity of the original concept. We carried out extensive research into how the building was designed and constructed to best determine its constraints and possibilities for the future.
One of the challenges of the project included upgrading and renovating the existing auditorium roof. The acoustic and thermal performance of the roof needed substantial improvement to bring it in line with modern standards of theatre performance. Additional roof finishes were required, so as a result we spent a lot of time investigating the concrete frame and existing roof, including carrying out weight checks of the existing fabric, and subsequently evaluating the strength of the structure to understand its limits.
While we concluded that there wasn’t much spare capacity left in the structure, we managed to upgrade the roof by carefully removing any redundant finishes of equivalent weight to those that were being added. This was a simple, cost effective solution that satisfied all requirements whilst retaining the main original roof structure in its entirety without any additional strengthening.
Funding contributions were made from the Heritage Lottery Fund.