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Studio Octopi lands planning for Greek Theatre revival

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Studio Octopi has landed planning to refurbish the 150-year-old Greek-style amphitheatre built in a former quarry at Bradfield College, Berkshire

The 1,000 seat theatre in the grounds of the private secondary school was closed five years ago on safety grounds. The approved scheme features a new ‘agora’, improved circulation, a ‘grand stair’ and a new timber-framed skene.

Work is expected to start on site in January 2013.

The architect’s view

Chris Romer-Lee, practice director:
‘In 1890 the then headmaster Dr Herbert Branston Gray fashioned the theatre from a gravel quarry to stage triennial Greek plays. The students who act in it receive no formal training in speaking ancient Greek and have only nine months to learn the lines and direction.

‘After a number of previous attempts to modernise the theatre, access remained the most challenging aspect. In 2009 Studio Octopi submitted to the school proposals that included a new agora (literal translation ‘gathering place’ or ‘assembly’) and grand stair to the north of the theatre. In September 2012 planning permission was granted by West Berkshire Council. The proposals include a new concrete perimeter walkway and timber framed skēnē. The skēnē is clad in shingles with sliding and hinged screens to the front to form the backdrop to the stage. Balustrading and decking is from a galvanised mesh over which planting is encouraged to grow, allowing the restored site to be reclaimed by nature.

‘This is a critical project for us as we continue to establish a practice that has experience in a multitude of different sectors, particularly with projects whose brief is unique or on a challenging site. Alongside this the practice is currently working with the Delfina Foundation on their recent competition win for extending and refurbishing the arts foundation.’

Both the Bradfield and Delfina projects feature in the forthcoming exhibition, Two Stories: Studio Octopi. The retrospective show is part of Buro Happold’s ‘Emerging Architects’ programme. This exhibition at 17 Newman Street, W1T 1PD, London is on display from 15 October until 1 December. 


Project data

Client: Bradfield College
Architect: Studio Octopi
Project Manager, quantity surveyor, CDMC : Synergy
Structural Engineer: Milk Structures
Theatre Consultant: Theatreplan
Contractor: Feltham Construction
Electrical Consultant : Q & Co Oxford



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