building envelope

Chester Storyhouse

Bennetts Associates’ Storyhouse incorporates the Grade 2 listed shell of the former 1936 Odeon cinema and a new brick and translucent glass extension.

STORYHOUSE brings a theatre and cinema back to Chester after a decade long absence. The library, restaurant/café and boutique cinema are housed in the cinema’s Art Deco interior and the 800-seat main auditorium, 150-seat flexible studio along with the bar and shared backstage facilities are housed in a new brick and copper clad extension. Storyhouse’s £37m build cost was largely

funded by Cheshire West and Chester Council, with support from Arts Council England and major local employer MBNA. Funding was also attracted from major national trusts and foundations. The former cinema space with its

decorative plasterwork has become the main public focus of the building with a restaurant/café and library winding its way across two floors and the boutique cinema housed in a glass-clad ‘lightbox’ suspended on the first-floor mezzanine. At night, Storyhouse transforms into a

restaurant and bar as the foyer is animated with a film projection shown on a new screen flown into the old proscenium arch. Theatre audiences pass through and under the cinema screen to access the main auditorium which is housed in a brickclad structure, encircled by open stairs and walkways which are visible from the street through translucent glass cladding. The Garret Theatre is sited above the main

auditorium. This studio space seats 150 and can double-up as a rehearsal or events space with its own catering facilities and fourth floor bar with views over the city. The studio sits on a series of steel transfer beams and columns which provide acoustic isolation. It is clad in Proteus HR TECU copper creating a distinct element on the skyline. The cladding cuts

across the green tinged cast-glass panels and striated brickwork of Storyhouse, breaking up and blurring the


lines between the refurbished and new build elements. The protruding copper-clad box will transition over time to an oxidised green that will echo the appearance of the original Odeon roof. “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,” explains Simon Erridge, project director at Bennetts Associates. “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.”

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