Marlowe Theatre seeks design specialists

Canterbury’s Marlowe Theatre is looking to design for the next stage of its £25.5m development, following planning approval for its reconstruction near a World Heritage Site.

Canterbury City Council has this week granted Keith Williams Architects planning permission to rebuild the Marlowe Theatre, and it is now looking to design consultancies to help it realise the project.

Built on the site of the present Marlowe Theatre – itself a conversion from a 1930s cinema – the 4850m2 build went through one of the most rigorous planning processes the architect has seen. ‘We had to consult English Heritage, the South East Design Review Panel and the Dean of Canterbury Cathedral,’ says Keith Williams, founder of Keith Williams Architects. When the project is complete in 2010, only the fly tower and stage house will remain.

Keith Williams Architects project architect Guy Davies says that the group is looking for a lighting designer and specialists to address signage and seating. It is particularly keen to integrate local companies into the project.

Davies says the appointment process will start in two to four weeks, and be ‘made either by a selective tendering process or a public tender notice’.

The new theatre will feature a new 1200-seat auditorium – increasing capacity by 26 per cent – and a second 150-capacity seating area. The architect is looking for design consultancies to create concepts for the seats.

‘The second area is a 150-seat adaptable space where we want to use a bleacher seat system – at the push of a button the seats disappear into a wall,’ he says.

Although there is no brief yet, Davies is inviting suggestions for signage, saying, ‘They have an open palette to work with, but signage needs to be a development in its entirety, not glued on at the last minute.’

Davies adds that successful consultancies will be ‘working very closely with ourselves and the design team, on minor areas and larger concepts, like detailing the bars. We want to enlist help. Lighting is not our speciality’.

The new site will be much bigger than the previous one. There will be an accessible foyer with ticket office, bars and a riverside café, in addition to an enlarged forecourt with sheltering colonnade to the main facade. Street furniture and signage in these areas will also need to be designed.

Key elements will be a fly tower with a pinnacle to enhance the skyline and a technical upgrade of the existing fly tower, orchestra pit and stage area.

Construction will begin in early 2009. A major appeal will be launched early next year to raise the remaining £6m.


The new Marlowe

• A 1200-seat auditorium with balconies, fly tower and orchestra pit

• A 150-seat flexible format second space

• A remodelled fly tower with a pinnacle to enhance the city skyline

• An accessible foyer with ticket office bars and riverside café

• An enlarged forecourt with colonnade to the main facade

• Technical upgrade of the stage area, fly tower and orchestra pit

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