Role reversal in Chester

Sian
Tuesday 04 Sep 2012

Proposal from Bennetts Associates is break form the norm as cinema in city centre is transformed into a library and theatre space


Cheshire West and Chester Council has unveiled Bennetts Associates’ proposals for a new £40m theatre and library in Chester. The scheme, on a site in the centre of the historic city, includes the transformation of the redundant Grade II listed Odeon cinema which dates from 1936.

Facilities to be provided include: a new 800-seat auditorium with the flexibility to create a 500-seat thrust stage format for a mix of touring and in-house productions; a 200-seat second performance space; a new public library, accessible from the theatre foyer; two studio cinemas, 120 and 80 seats; and a number of cafes and bars.

The studio theatre, foyer and cafes and bars will be housed within the restored Art Deco interior of the Odeon cinema. Locating the central library alongside the theatres will bring new audiences and supports the client’s aspiration for activity on the site throughout the day and evening.

Simon Erridge, Director at Bennetts Associates commented: “This is an immensely challenging project involving sensitive restoration and refurbishment alongside the creation of a brand new theatre. The innovative approach of bringing theatres, cinemas and a library together under one roof will create a major cultural focus for Chester as well as bringing a threatened historic building back into use.”

The Council will make an initial application for Arts Council funding in September and aim to submit a planning application for the project in summer 2013, with the new facilities opening in spring 2016. Bennetts Associates are working with theatre consultants Charcoalblue, engineers Buro Happold and project managers Buro Four on the scheme.

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