Storyhouse

Chester, UK

A comprehensive cultural complex, Storyhouse brings a theatre and cinema back to Chester for the first time in a decade and rehouses the city’s library within its public spaces. Welcoming more than one million visitors in its first year, it has become a model for theatrical regeneration and community engagement.

An exterior of Storyhouse as seen from the city's bus depot. Image: Peter Cook.

During the 1930’s Oscar Deutsch tasked architect Harry Weedon with overseeing the designs of his burgeoning Odeon Cinema chain. They’re credited with teaching “Britain to love modern architecture" and form "a body of work which, with London Underground stations, denotes the Thirties like nothing else".

Some eighty years later, Chester’s biggest capital development project in half a century saw the city’s Grade-II listed, 1936 Odeon Cinema remodelled and extended to incorporate a theatre, cinema, library, restaurant and host more than 2,000 activities a year for local marginalised groups.

“One of the most exciting projects in England… A powerful, modern, forward-thinking vision.”

Sir Peter Bazalgette, Chairman Arts Council

The circulation area makes use of the original Odeon auditorium, retaining many of the art deco details. Image: Peter Cook.

The public areas feature 700m of shelving accommodating the city's library. Image: Peter Cook.

Storyhouse features breakout areas for activities throughout the building. Image: Peter Cook.

Storyhouse features breakout areas for activities throughout the building. Image: Peter Cook.

We worked with long-time collaborators, Bennetts Associates, on the new adaptable 500-800 seat theatre with flytower which sits within an elegant, copper extension. The auditorium is able to transform itself from a summer festival stage into a winter touring proscenium house. We’ve also designed a new 150-seat studio space located above the main theatre. Inside the old cinema auditorium, the complex includes a new 100-seat cinema, restaurant and the city’s relocated library which twists and turns around the public space providing 700m of shelving. The library, therefore, remains open as long as the building does giving Storyhouse the longest opening hours of any public library in the UK.

The main auditorum seats 800-500. Image: Peter Cook.

We provided full consultancy services, leading the design of the flexible performance spaces and designs for the technical systems. The theatre needed to be as flexible as possible owing to the wide array of events and festivals that take place at Storyhouse including the Chester Literature Festival, Blink Festival for new parents, The Great Get Together for older communities and the Kaleidoscope Festival for adults living with a disability.

“The new performance spaces are a triumph.”

Rob Wilson, Architects Journal

The main auditorum seats 800-500. Image: Peter Cook.

The studio space. Image: Charcoalblue

The studio in use. Image: Storyhouse.

The 100-seat cinema. Image: Peter Cook.

Storyhouse is now the largest public building in Chester and the resulting theatre and studio provide some of the most innovative performance spaces in the country which will serve the community for decades to come.

Watch: The Storyhouse team discuss the regeneration of a Chester icon.

Awards

  • Historic England Angel Award – Best Major Regeneration of a Historic Building or Place – 2018
  • RIBA Awards – RIBA National Award - 2018
  • RIBA Awards – RIBA North West Award - 2018
  • LABC Building Excellence Awards – Winner, 'Best Change of Use of an Existing Building' category - 2018
  • RICS Awards – Highly Commended, 'Community Benefit' category, North-West Region - 2018
  • Civic Trust Awards – Special Award for Community Impact and Engagement - 2018
  • FX International Design Awards – Winner, 'Leisure or Entertainment Venue' category - 2017
  • Brick Awards – Winner, 'Public Building' category - 2017
  • Building Awards – Refurbishment Project of the Year - 2017

Project Details

Client

Storyhouse

Completion

2017

Project cost

£37million

Credits

Theatre Consultant

Charcoalblue

M&E Engineer

Foreman Roberts

Project Manager

Buro Four

Planning Consultant

WYG

Structural Engineer

WSP

Main Contractor

Kier

Photography

See individual image caption

Gary P. Wright

For more on Storyhouse, speak to Gary.

+44 (0)117 325 9280

Gary P. Wright

For more on Storyhouse, speak to Gary.

Contact Gary

+44 (0)117 325 9280