Bristol Old Vic, Bristol

The public is cleverly drawn in by a promise of discovery

Bristol Old Vic, Bristol.
Bristol Old Vic, Bristol. Credit: Philip Vile

South West Regional Award 2019

Haworth Tompkins for Bristol Old Vic
Contract value: £9.3m
GIA: 2,135m²
Cost per m²: £4,356

This is a bold reinvention of one of Bristol’s most loved theatres. It addresses how we read cities and how we choose to make connections.

Through revealing and flooding daylight on the previously hidden Georgian hulk of the theatre, the public is cleverly drawn in from the street by a promise of discovery. This intelligent insertion acts as a foyer – with an illusion of being an external courtyard. A sure hand has made drama of a much-altered historic fabric, applying an as-found aesthetic that exposes the scars of what was there before to tell a story. 

Two new staircases touch the 18th century unfinished masonry walls, linking a gallery of openings that allows one to pause, to see and to be seen and delight in participating in the whole. 

The new foyer location has unlocked the plan to make whole again the old volumes within Coopers Hall, creating new studios in surprising in-ground and attic spaces. The interventions have also successfully secreted other necessary back-of-house functions.

Although a comparatively small insertion between two imposing buildings, the new entrance, expressed verticality, holds its own with a strong confident presence on the street scene via new red doorways and copper coloured shutters above, giving glimpses into the ‘courtyard’ foyer. In the evenings a warm light glows onto a dark cobbled street, signalling a public playhouse.

Regional Building of the Year
Regional Conservation Award

  • Bristol Old Vic, Bristol.
    Bristol Old Vic, Bristol. Credit: Fred Howarth
  • Bristol Old Vic, Bristol.
    Bristol Old Vic, Bristol. Credit: Fred Howarth
  • Bristol Old Vic, Bristol.
    Bristol Old Vic, Bristol. Credit: Philip Vile
  • Bristol Old Vic, Bristol.
    Bristol Old Vic, Bristol. Credit: Fred Howarth
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