The Studio Theatre began its life as an orchestral rehearsal space immediately beneath the opera rehearsal room, lying south of the Floral Hall and extending three storeys below ground.
By 1995 the brief extended this function to a publicly accessible space for more than 400 people - additionally catering for chamber opera, contemporary dance and educational events such as lectures and workshops. The nature of the space was to be in direct contrast to the main house: experimental, informal and very flexible.
A rectilinear plan and galleried form have been chosen in order to stack the audience so that sufficient numbers can be accommodated within the footprint. The galleries narrow the space and create a three-dimensional dynamic between the audience and the stage. The narrower dimension improves speech intelligibility for educational events and the sound reflects off the soffits to feed back to the musicians.
An open flat-floor room is required for orchestral rehearsals to maximise the volume for symphonic sound. In addition to raked fixed seating for dance in the galleries and opera, the use of retractable seating units was the most effective way to achieve the flat floor. A chamber orchestra pit was required for opera and a deep and wide (12m) stage needed for dance.
An opera rehearsal room is located directly above. To create two adjacent but independent performance spaces it has been necessary to separate these structurally and acoustically. A 'box in box' condition has been formed whereby the Studio Theatre sits within an outer shell of construction.
The Studio Theatre is entered from a foyer one storey below street level and the audience arrives at the top of the theatre and descends to the seats. This contrasts directly with the main auditorium. The side galleries provide access to escape routes on both sides of the theatre and make use of the separation spaces between the inner and outer box structures.
Aesthetically the Studio Theatre is a dark grey interior with steel framed galleries and a light oak flat floor. Its materials and finishes are robust and unadorned, the antithesis of Barry's auditorium.
The ceiling is a composite arrangement of ducts, lights, flying equipment and walkways which are unashamedly exposed.