Keith Williams Architects redesign the Marlowe Theatre in the South of England
Canterbury's New Marlowe Theatre is one of the most significant new cultural buildings to be constructed in the South of England for many decades. It is of highly contemporary design set within this important historic cathedral city centre.
The project brief was twofold:
I) It required a major new cultural building replacing the Old Theatre with a new larger receiving house containing a 1,194 seat main auditorium, the 150 seat Marlowe Studio for experimental and youth theatre, restaurant and bars, rehearsal and backstage facilities.
II) And it required a transformation of the public realm.
Surrounded by Grade 1 listed buildings and Canterbury's UNESCO World Heritage Site, the site was assembled from The old Marlowe Theatre's site and a second hand car yard which separated the old Marlowe's site from the River Stour.
The Marlowe is the centrepiece of the architects' vision transforming this part of the city centre public realm with high quality terraces, sculpture and riverside walkways.
The Marlowe is transparent, open and accessible and has quickly become the major destination for the Arts in Canterbury.
Architecturally it is a radical development of the contemporary arts building whilst sitting effortlessly within its complex urban context.
The flytower, illuminated at night, is clad in stainless steel mesh. Second in height to Canterbury Cathedral's Bell Harry Tower, the flytower‘s pinnacled geometry helps establish the Marlowe's civic identity and creates a new accent within the city skyline.
The white stone colonnade enwraps the foyer spaces, unifying the building's composition whilst moderating between the Marlowe's large masses and the scale of Canterbury's streets. It provides a civic architectural quality, solar shading to the glazed foyer, and shelter for the arriving audience. The gently sloping forecourt in black flamed granite allows level access directly into the foyer, and the main auditorium, and locks seamlessly into the spatial partie of the city.
Lined in black American walnut with orange flame leather seating the 3 level main auditorium is a tour de force, beautifully composed with acoustic of true world class, hosting Glyndebourne Opera during autumn 2012.
The £25.6 million Marlowe was delivered to time and budget, opening 7th October 2011, it is immensely popular with audience attendances of 300,000+ greatly exceeding expectations .