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Jonathan Tuckey wins go-ahead for Newbury prep school theatre scheme

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Basingstoke and Deane Council has approved plans for a scheme at Horris Hill Preparatory School in Newbury centered around a new theatre, ampitheatre and cloisters 

Jonathan Tuckey Design, which has designed the scheme, says the proposal will ‘reimagine the campus as a city, taking into account the civic role played by performance spaces in classic urban masterplans, both inside and out’.

At the heart of the project is a multifunctional 370m² timber-framed auditorium, seating 240 pupils, which will replace a design and technology block at the boys boarding and preparatory school in north Hampshire.

The local design review panel praised the designs as having ‘strong ecclesiastical and public piazza references’, although the reviewers added they were ‘disappointed’ with the scheme’s floor plan layout (see full review here).

Practice director Jonathan Tuckey said: ‘We see the theatre as an important place in the school campus for the meeting of students, teachers and the wider public, allowing for the exchange of ideas and experiences.’

Construction is expected to start this summer and complete in 2018.

Jtd horris hill courtyard west

The architect’s view

The theatre works on multiple levels of theatricality, providing four different kinds of spaces that can be used to frame public activity: the building houses a main auditorium inside; the rear opens out to create an amphitheatre; a cloister at the side becomes a courtyard for external performances; and a large portico addresses a new ‘town square’ that will allow large groups to gather for main events in the school calendar.

The theatre structure is comprised of cross-laminated timber beams that will be clad entirely in terracotta cement boards, matching the colour and materials of the surrounding brick and tile-covered buildings, while retaining its own strong identity.

The wooden interiors will create an acoustic warmth for performances, akin to the feeling of sitting inside a giant musical instrument.

This proposal dispenses with the idea that the school is arranged like a village but instead approaches the site as a mini city, acknowledging the specific urban qualities of individual buildings and spaces. Classical city plans place theatrical functions at the heart of civic architecture and this typology plays an important role in developing concepts of citizenship, with performance and debating taking place inside and outside the new building.

The positioning of the theatre – which sees the demolition of an existing design and technology block – will signal its function from multiple viewpoints across the site and the other buildings that make up Horris Hill.

Site plan

Site plan


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