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Theatre balcony detail: Corby Cube, Corby, Northamptonshire, by Hawkins\Brown

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[Working detail 05.05.11] Balcony for the theatre inside Corby’s civic centre

The theatre is one of the most important, and perhaps most surprising spaces, within the Cube. Influenced by traditional theatres such as the Old Vic and Royal Court, our intention was always to imbue the space with a sense of splendour and capture some of the old-style glamour and opulence of a night at the theatre, but in a contemporary manner.

The brief for the space evolved from the original vision of a formal flytower theatre with proscenium arch, wings, raked stalls and raised stage, to the final design of a flexible venue that incorporates all the qualities of a variety theatre. This was achieved firstly by adopting a horseshoe balcony arrangement that deliberately brings the audience as close as possible to the performance to encourage interaction, acknowledging that theatre is a participatory rather than passive experience.

Innovative technologies including a curved retractable seating system, a seating elevator and wagon, and a movable proscenium combine to create the illusion of a traditional theatre while providing maximum flexibility to accommodate its diverse programme of events.

Through close collaboration with the design team and specialist subcontractors, we were able to draw together a number of complex technical and aesthetic requirements: sightlines, seating capacity, acoustics, ventilation, stage engineering, lighting, AV, structure and architectural finishes. These sometimes competing requirements were co-ordinated to create a well-considered, flexible, and hopefully beautiful space.

Euan MacDonald, associate, Hawkins\Brown

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