Stanton Williams breathes new life into the Belgrade
When it opened, Coventry’s 1958 Belgrade Theatre was the first all-new theatre to be built in Britain for twenty years, and first purpose-built civic theatre. The building and artistic programme represented a new age. However, the theatre’s facilities were becoming inadequate. Stanton Williams were commissioned to revitalise the theatre, providing a second more flexible auditorium, expanded foyers, rehearsal room, maximise energy efficiency and improve access and backstage facilities.
The architects' work complements and restores the Grade II-listed Modernism of the original whilst creating a bold contemporary landmark. The extension was the first building to be designed as part of a future mixed-use development so needed to respond to this new scale. In addition, patrons increasingly arrived by car, using the rear doors to enter instead of the main entrance. The architects expanded the theatre in this direction, with a new glazed elevation offering a more inviting entrance which will form part of a new square.
The seven storey extension is strongly vertical, contrasting with the lower horizontals of the original theatre. Comprising interlocking cubic volumes of blue and grey render, red panels, glass, and translucent plastic, it signposts the theatre’s presence. The colour and window slots break up the large surfaces. Inside, the extension connects seamlessly with existing foyers which have been stripped back and restored. The colour palette of grey, blue and red is used throughout, connecting interior and exterior and new and old. Glossy red finishes for the bar, and dramatic internal and external night lighting add to the theatrical experience.