First look at Chester theatre design

Specialist architects Bennetts Associates have released two images of concept drawings for the new £40.5m theatre.

The London-based practice is leading the concept design stage of the project alongside theatre consultants, Charcoalblue, and engineering consultancy, Buro Happold.

The cross-section view shows a 200-seat theatre and larger 800-seat auditorium on the left and a library space and tower of meeting rooms to the right.

Bennetts Chester theatre designNext Wednesday 5 September executive of the Cheshire West & Chester Council will be discuss the next steps in the fund-raising process to transform the former Odeon cinema into the city's theatre by March 2016. The one-acre development site also takes in Commerce House, its car park and 49 Northgate Street.

The council executive is expected to agree a bid for £5m of Arts Council capital investment funding; the re-location of Chester Central Library to the theatre site and the operation of the theatre by a charitable company limited by guarantee.

Members are also asked to endorse the establishment of a fundraising campaign board to work together with the theatre's operating company; the concept design report and a procurement exercise for a multi-disciplinary design team.

Charlie Seward, executive director of regeneration and culture, said: "There are novel and exciting synergies between library activity and theatre programming. The profile of library users will present the theatre with an opportunity to engage with new and particularly younger audiences."

The council said the proposal allows deficiencies in the current library to be tackled, including the location of the children' library in the basement; noise management and maintenance of quiet zones.

A planning application is expected to be made in summer 2013 and site preparation work scheduled to begin in spring 2014.

Indicative building costs are estimated at: theatre £33.8m; library £5.4m and cinemas £1.35m. The Council's capital programme will provide £23m; £6m from fundraising; £5m from the Arts Council and £6.75m from other council funding sources.

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This is great news for Chester (and long overdue). I’ve been walking into town past the boarded up Odeon for far too long. Now we just need a brilliant Artistic Director to help give our city the global cultural reputation that one day it may just merit….

By andy porter

Why combine library and theatre? Is that wise? Chester, it strikes me you don’t know what you’re doing. Again.

By Mush

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