Coveted RIBA Stirling Prize for Bristol Old Vic remodelling architect

October 17, 2014

The architect behind Bristol Old Vic’s plans to transform its front-of-house spaces has won the RIBA Stirling Prize, the profession’s most-prestigious award.

Haworth Tompkins scooped architecture’s top national prize for the best building of the year last night for their work on the Everyman Theatre in Liverpool.

They were praised by the judges for creating an exceptional piece of architecture and outstanding building that retains the unique values of the Everyman, an approach they are now bringing to their transformation of the country’s oldest continuously working theatre in Bristol.

The architects behind iconic theatre projects such as the Royal Court, Young Vic and the National Theatre are now involved with the ambitious remodelling of Bristol Old Vic’s front of house and listed spaces, set to make the theatre a welcoming place for the whole of Bristol.

The theatre team have been working with Haworth Tompkins on the project for the past three years. It received support from Bristol City Council when they gave it planning permission earlier this year.

Having successfully been awarded major capital grants from Arts Council England and Bristol City Council, the Bristol Old Vic team are more than half-way through the second stage of fundraising for the project, following the much-acclaimed auditorium refurbishment in 2012.

Bristol Old Vic executive director Emma Stenning said: “We are very excited that Bristol Old Vic is set to be one of the next key theatre projects for this year’s Stirling Prize winners, Haworth Tompkins, who are working with us on the final part of our transformation.

“They are visionary architects whose sensitive and atmospheric plans for our theatre will allow us to reveal the heritage of Bristol’s architectural gem after nearly 250 years and we’re thrilled their star quality has been recognised with this award.

“Haworth Tompkins’ re-modelling of our front of house and listed spaces is set to provide a world class building of the stature Bristol deserves and a welcoming space to inspire the whole city.”

Mayor of Bristol George Ferguson added: “I’m particularly delighted, both as an architect and mayor, that the re-design of the front of house space at the Bristol Old Vic – one of the city’s key cultural venues – is being undertaken by this year’s RIBA Stirling Prize winning architects Haworth Tompkins. Their Liverpool Everyman Theatre is a great example of people-centred architecture.

“Bristol deserves the best and Haworth Tompkins’ approach is set to create an open, inclusive and welcoming space, which will be an asset, not only to the Bristol Old Vic, but to the entire city.

“One of my key priorities is to make Bristol a place where the streets are alive with activity, and where every citizen and community participates in the cultural life of their city and community.

“Making cultural venues, such as the Bristol Old Vic, more open and inclusive, where everyone is welcome, is vitally important for a healthy city.” 

Bristolians will be able to enjoy the wide, open space of a new entrance foyer, lifts to all floors, more toilets, a new studio theatre, longer bars and the return of Coopers’ Hall to its original 18th century use as an events space for the city.

The new foyer design is inspired by the openness of an Italian piazza, with natural light filling the space through high-level windows. Open all day, the comfortable, spacious foyer will have a welcoming café atmosphere where people can meet and relax. In the early evening, the restaurant will offer a quick snack or a full pre-show dinner.

The new space will also meet high environmental standards, with a ‘green’ planted roof and passive ventilation through an underground labyrinth, instead of air conditioning. This will make the new buildings efficient to run, as well as reducing the organisation’s carbon footprint.

Steve Tompkins, director of Haworth Tompkins, said: “Winning the RIBA Stirling Prize is a huge honour and the most thrilling endorsement of our completed work, but our creative attention is now firmly focused on current projects. The Anniversary work is certainly one of the highlights for us, because we share the Bristol Old Vic's vision to see this extraordinary theatre become more explicitly part of the everyday life of the city. We hope everyone will get behind Tom and Emma to complete the funding journey so that together we can bring this exciting work to fruition.”

To make a donation or find out more about the fundraising campaign to complete Bristol Old Vic’s Anniversary Works, please contact Kate Ryan:

Pictured: An image of the Haworth Tompkins-designed front of house

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