Libraries & Cultural
A new integrated development including theatre, library, cinema and arts centre. The restored and revitalised Grade II Listed Odeon building now houses an 800 seat auditorium, 150 seat studio theatre, restaurant, 2 bars and a boutique cinema. The cultural centre received a £3m contribution from Art Council England and is at the heart of the historic city. Storyhouse has community in mind and is highly inclusive in its design.
The new theatre and fly tower were built on the site of the demolished Commerce House, and the Art Deco Odeon was totally stripped back and re-configured, including façade retention to accommodate the new library, art house and cinema.
The site was excavated after a 2 month archaeological dig which exposed evidence of a Roman barracks building and a Roman road. Finds included pottery shards, coins, cistern pits and terracotta roof tiles. The constructor partner opened their doors to 37 archaeology volunteers and members of archaeological societies to join the excavation. The finds were showcased in a visitor centre on-site, open to the public to share in the exciting discoveries.
State of the art theatre and community space
The theatre spaces include a uniquely flexible main house, which converts seasonally from a proscenium to a ‘thrust’ stage.
The ‘proscenium arch’ stage spreads across three tiers: stalls, circle and gallery. The same theatre converts into a 500 seat ‘thrust’ stage (with the audience wrapping around three sides of the stage). In this format, the auditorium spreads across two tiers – circle and gallery – with new pit seating putting the audience right in amongst the action.
The 150 seat Studio theatre sits on top of the building and is a flexible, fully-equipped performance, rehearsal or workshop space. Next to The Studio is a glass-fronted bar with panoramic views across the city. The boutique cinema is designed to honour the original Odeon’s history as a cinema in 1936, with plush red velvet and soft, sunken seating for 100 people. The library, also including study areas, spreads through the building with family-friendly activity occurring all around. Books cover the walls of the old Odeon and a new children’s area provides facilities for wet-play, arts and crafts and storytelling.
Collaborative working and engagement
Prior to works commencing on site, the project required a high level of collaboration and engagement between several stakeholder groups. The NWCH was the ideal procurement vehicle for Storyhouse, due to the framework’s collaborative culture and the early contractor engagement made possible before the EOI process.
A number of key supply-chain partners were involved from Stage 2 to work with the designers in specific workshops. Separate interview days were held for 3 subcontract packages – M&E, stage lighting & audio visual and stage engineering. This ensured suitability and involved the client, constructor partner and the design team in mutual decisions.
Externally led Lean Programming Workshops, facilitated by the constructor partner, were held with all key stakeholders throughout the project, with specific emphasis upon completion. During these sessions the teams worked together to map out key actions, when they were to take place and by whom. This promoted positive communication and collaboration between Cheshire West and Chester Council, the constructor partner and design teams. Early engagement and lean planning workshops were also vital in successfully highlighting and discussing problems and preventing potential delays further into the project.
The effective ethos of collaborative working and engagement on the project saw Storyhouse awarded the Royal Town Planning Institute’s Collaboration Award. The award is designed to encourage and reward outstanding achievement in planning. It recognised the multi-disciplinary working and community engagement at Storyhouse – including projects with local schools, voluntary archaeologists and the general public.
“The team are enthusiastic, collaborative and forward thinking. The team all have a culture that has existed throughout the project, understanding each other’s pressures and needs.”
Jane Hetherington- Cheshire West & Chester Council
All photos Copyright Peter Cook