New Chester Theatre, England Arts Building, Storyhouse Cinema + Library Design, Architect

Chester Theatre Building

Storyhouse Cheshire Arts Venue, northwest England – design by Bennetts Associates, Architects

30 Jun 2018
Storyhouse Shortlisted at World Architecture Festival Reveals 2018 Awards

Storyhouse, Chester, by Bennetts Associates, is one of 536 shortlisted entries across 81 countries:

World Architecture Festival Awards 2018 Shortlist

page updated 31 Dec 2016 ; 7 Oct 2014

New Chester Cultural Centre Building

Design: Bennetts Associates Architects

Chester Cultural Centre wins Planning Permission

Proposals for the Chester Cultural Centre won planning consent on 19 Sep 2014. The Centre provides two theatres, a cinema and a public library in the historic centre of the city.

The project incorporates the listed shell of a former Odeon cinema and a new brick and translucent glass extension, with the library, cafe and 100-seat cinema screen being housed in the former cinema’s streamlined art-deco interior and the 800-seat main auditorium, 150-seat flexible studio and shared backstage facilities being housed in the new extension.

New Chester Cultural Centre Building

Bennetts Associates Director Simon Erridge said: “We’re delighted that this exciting project has been granted planning permission. We’ve been able to build on our experience working with historic theatres to create exciting and versatile spaces that provides a valuable amenity for Chester. The regeneration of such a historically significant but currently disused building is also great news for the city centre, and we’re looking forward to seeing the project progress.”

16 Oct 2013

New Chester Theatre Building

Design: Bennetts Associates Architects


16 October 2013 – The world-class team to design and build Chester’s £37.5m theatre, library and cinema complex was announced today (Wednesday).

New Chester Theatre

National construction giants Kier Construction and multi-award-winning architects, Bennetts Associates, have been chosen to transform the former Odeon Cinema on Northgate Street into an iconic cultural centre.

Chester Theatre exterior view:
Chester Theatre Building
image © Bennetts Associates Architects

One of the UK’s leading architectural practices, Bennetts Associates was responsible for the design of the Stirling Prize shortlisted transformation of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, and the new Hampstead Theatre in London.

Kier Construction has delivered cultural developments such as the Llandudno Theatre, Floral Pavilion, New Brighton and the restoration and extension of Liverpool’s Bluecoat Arts Centre.

Today Councillor Stuart Parker, Executive Member for Culture and Economy, said: “We have signed up a truly world-class double act to deliver the new heart of Chester’s cultural offer. Chester’s cultural offer is essential to the future economy of the city and every £1 spent in that direction produces a return of six times that amount.”

Following the announcement Gary Wintersgill, Managing Director of Kier Construction’s Northern Division, revealed his company’s high targets to boost the local economy during the project’s 19-month life cycle.

Kier Construction is seeking to achieve 70% local labour and subcontractors, and 75% local material suppliers. Additionally there will be in excess of 15 building trade apprenticeships and 38 weeks of training opportunities for local schools and colleges.

The company begins work on site in February 2015 and will employ 250 people at any one time and a total of 1,500 throughout the contract period.

Mr Wintersgill said: “We are delighted to be part of the team selected to deliver what will be an outstanding new cultural facility for Chester and the wider community.”

Bennetts Associates – which was previously appointed in June 2012 to produce the concept design for the new cultural complex – will begin detailed design work almost immediately.

Bennetts Associates Director Simon Erridge said: “This is the most significant new building project in Chester for decades.

Chester Theatre interior view:
Chester Theatre Building
image © Bennetts Associates Architects

“Chester’s brief is incredibly imaginative, demonstrating that it is possible for redundant buildings to be transformed and regenerate the cultural and economic life of our city centres.”

The 800-seat theatre will be housed in a new building, linked to the existing by open foyer spaces. The Grade II listed Odeon itself is to be restored and converted into a contemporary city library, including a café, study spaces and a 120-seat screen located on the former cinema balcony.

Fully equipped to receive touring productions, the main theatre auditorium will also convert into a 600-seat venue to support Chester-based productions. A separate 150-seat studio will provide flexible rehearsal and education space.

Chester Theatre Building
image © Cheshire West and Chester Council

When built in 1936, The Odeon was one of a great number of new cinemas in the UK to employ the distinctive art-deco style. Chester’s building is now one of relatively few survivors. Despite sub-division into five screens in the 1970s, many of the building’s original features have been retained. The proposed scheme will strip out later alterations and restore the original scale and proportions of the building’s interiors.

This is fantastic news said Andrew Bentley, Director, Chester Performs, the Chester-based arts producer which will run the new theatre:

“The project is really gathering momentum now, and this team is perfectly placed to help us build a wonderful, game changing cultural facility for the city.

“We have achieved so much in terms of quality and audiences even without a building in the last few years and this building will be a worthy home for all that. We have so much more to do to further excite audiences and engage communities but this is just the start and Chester Performs are delighted to be working alongside this tremendous team.”

Chester Theatre Site Plan:
Chester Theatre Site Plan
image © Bennetts Associates Architects

Chester Theatre Building : background information

New Chester Theatre Team

About Kier Construction
Kier Group plc is a leading construction, services and property group specialising in building and civil engineering, support services, commercial property development and affordable housing. The Group employs over 16000 people worldwide and has an annual revenue of £2.8bn.

Kier construction operates from offices in Speke, Manchester & Wrexham in the region and has been named Northwest contractor of the year for 2012 & 2013 in the regional CCI construction awards.

About Bennetts Associates
Bennetts Associates is one of the UK’s leading architecture practices with a portfolio of work that has won more than 125 awards, with projects in education, commercial and public-sectors as well as theatres, cultural and historic buildings. The firm has a reputation for its design quality, approach to sustainability and for its collaborative style of working.

The practice was responsible for the design of the Stirling Prize shortlisted transformation of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon, completed in 2010, and the new Hampstead Theatre in London. It is currently working with leading UK theatres on a variety of projects, including proposals for major restoration and extension projects at the Old Vic Theatre and Shaftesbury Theatre in London, and the Citizen’s Theatre in Glasgow.

Bennetts Associates was appointed by Cheshire West and Chester Council in June 2012, along with the design team for the Royal Shakespeare Theatre project, to produce a concept design for Chester Theatre. The practice will now see the project through to delivery, as part of the design team procured through Kier. Bennetts Associates is based in London and Edinburgh and currently has around 70 staff.

New Chester Theatre images / information from Bennetts Associates Architects

Chester Theatre design : Bennetts Associates

Location: Chester, Cheshire, Northwest England, UK

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Website: Chester Theatre