Chester Theatre, Chester
Chester Theatre, Chester
- Proteus HR
- Bennett Associates (Concept) / Ellis Williams (Delivery)
Bennetts Associates’ Storyhouse in Chester, featuring a Proteus HR rainscreen clad copper ‘head’, is an inspired rework and reinvigoration of the 1930s Odeon cinema.
Executed in Proteus HR TECU copper, the ribbed, abstracted rainscreen clad fins envelope the 150-seat studio theatre that sits on top of the main auditorium, creating a presence like no other.
The copper fins announce the new studio theatre, jutting outwardly and inwardly, with their slotted appearance being described as a touch of ‘1920s German Expressionist theatre’.
Clad entirely in Proteus rainscreen cladding this ‘copper pavilion’ jauntily points to the Chester skyline, bookending the western corner of the elongated square building, which is framed at one side by the town hall and cathedral at the other.
It was Cheshire West and Chester council that stepped in with a bold plan to deliver this £37m vision for transforming the Grade II-listed Odeon cinema building. Charged with implementing this ambitious plan was multi RIBA-award winning architects Bennetts Associates.
Bright and bold, the Proteus rainscreen clad studio theatre sits confidently above the much larger 800-seat theatre, comprising the new build elements. What was the existing Odeon has been transformed into a 94-seat ‘boutique’ cinema, library, restaurant/bar and café.
Visitors to the building cannot fail to notice that Bennetts Associates’ striking design makes a central play of the Proteus copper cladding. The gleaming, protruding copper-clad box will transition over time to an oxidised green that will echo the appearance of the original Odeon roof.
The Proteus HR cladding now cuts across the green tinged cast-glass panels and striated brickwork of Storyhouse, compositionally breaking up and blurring the lines between the refurbished and new build elements.
“The success of the Storyhouse design lies in the way the extension containing the theatre spaces was added to the shell of the Grade 2 listed 1930s Odeon. Whilst the proportions of the extension relate directly to the historic brick cinema, we used copper and glass to create the elevations, to provide contrast and to identify the main elements of the new building.
Proteus HR TECU cladding is used to clad the studio theatre and bar, which is expressed as an overhanging element on the skyline of the building. The flatness of the panels and the long-term beauty of the natural copper finish were key to this decision,” said Simon Erridge, Project Director, Bennetts Associates.
Storyhouse has been designed to the highest standards for audience comfort and sightlines. The same rigour has been applied to the rainscreen cladding, both visually and technically. The Proteus HR copper panels are fitted to rigid vertical mullions that are anchored to the backing wall with adjustable support brackets.
The intimate space that is enveloped with Proteus copper cladding looks set to become the hardest working space in the building. Retractable seating has been incorporated to allow for a flat floor for workshops and rehearsals, while as a performance space its intimacy allows for a close relationship between actor and audience.