An extension provides a coloured ceramic ‘face’, while internally theatre spaces have been reworked
The new extension has a façade of brightly coloured ceramics intended to provide a new ’face’ and strong visual identity to the organisation. The frontage created on St Peter’s Street turns the theatre around to face the city centre and provides a new entrance and café at street level.
Originally designed by the Appleton Partnership and opened in 1990, the building contains two main theatre spaces – the Quarry, a fan-shaped tiered auditorium and the Courtyard Theatre, a galleried flexible space with a retractable seating bank. These have had their seating capacity increased and their accessibility enhanced, while a new flexible performance space has been created through the reuse of an existing basement.
A new foyer and circulation route connects the building both internally and out to the street.
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The completed project comprises the new entrance extension on to St Peter’s Street (with a large new passenger lift), a reimagined original entrance on to Playhouse Square, and the formation of a new internal foyer at the mid-level of the building to connect the entrances and provide improved access and connection into the Quarry and Courtyard. The box office is relocated to the literal heart of the building, opening up to a newly landscaped area named Playhouse Gardens. The latter provides an accessible outside link between St Peter’s Street and Playhouse Square, and connects the Playhouse with the newly built creative arts campus of Leeds City College.
The circulation now creates a route through the theatre – offering the prospect of chance encounters with the performing arts and other activities hosted by Leeds Playhouse.
The use of ceramics externally roots the façade in the strong local tradition of ceramic and faience seen around Leeds. In our research on the historical context of the site we learnt about Burmantofts Pottery, with its colourful ceramics made locally but exported globally, and we discovered an appropriate synergy with Playhouse productions that are very frequently ‘local’ in content yet focus on universal themes that allow them to be toured nationally and internationally.
Despite being diminutive in scale against the neighbouring buildings, the new entrance has an assertive presence on St Peter’s Street, in part due to the roofline and the symbolic Playhouse capital letters – which are themselves reminiscent of the original Leeds Playhouse on Leeds University campus.
Improving the resilience of Leeds Playhouse was a major objective and the environmental sustainability agenda a critical part of this. The reimagining of the existing building is inherently sustainable and outdated mechanical and electrical systems have been replaced with more efficient versions. Opportunities for the Playhouse to generate its own revenue have been significantly enhanced through the creation of new and improved catering and conferencing facilities.
There has been an emphasis on making Leeds Playhouse as inclusive as possible, reflecting the organisation’s vision and values. The toilet provision is comprehensive, with provision for both gender and non-gender assigned facilities, family-friendly cubicles and compartments, and retaining a Changing Places facility.
Nicola Walls, project director, Page\Park
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The transformed Leeds Playhouse marks the most exciting new chapter in our history for decades and we can’t wait to welcome everyone to enjoy and explore. The new building will allow us to offer the magic of theatre to everyone, all under one roof. There is a tangible buzz around culture in Leeds right now – with the relocation of Channel 4 and the upcoming plans for Leeds 2023, this really is the most fantastic time to be reopening a theatre that the whole city can be proud of.
James Brining, executive director, Leeds Playhouse
Level 0 annotated
Start on site May 2018
Completion October 2019
Gross internal floor area 6,200m2
Gross (internal + external) floor area 10,400m2 (including external gateway court development)
Form of contract NEC Option A two stage design & build with PCSA
Construction cost £13.4 million
Construction cost per m2 £2,160
Architect Page\Park Architects
Principal designer Page\Park Architects
Client Leeds City Council
End user client Leeds Playhouse (Leeds Playhouse Trust)
Structural engineer Arup
M&E consultant Max Fordham
QS Rex Procter & Partners
Theatre consultant Charcoalblue
Landscape consultant re-form landscape architects
Acoustic consultant Sandy Brown Associates
Fire engineer Arup
Access consultant Jane Toplis Associates
Project manager Turner & Townsend
CDM coordinator CDM Scotland (adviser to Principal Designer)
Approved building inspector Leeds City Council Building Control
Main contractor BAM
CAD software used REVIT
Level 2 axo
Environmental performance / sustainability data
On-site energy generation 0% (NB all heat and DHW provided by District Heating network)
Airtightness at 50pa 10m3/h.m2 (new build only)
Heating and hot water load 185kWh/year average usage over last three years (based on the full building GIFA of 8,500m²)
Overall area-weighted u-value 0.85W/m².K (for the extension)
Embodied / whole-life carbon Not calculated
Annual CO2 emissions 15kgCO2eq/m2