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Studio Seilern wins Wellington College contest

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[FIRST LOOK + PLANS] London-based Studio Seilern has won a competition to design a new performing arts centre for Wellington College in Berkshire

The proposals include a new ‘floating drum’ auditorium building attached to the college’s existing theatre.

The original block will be refurbished to include a ‘black box’ theatre, dance studio, recording studio, and music practice rooms.

The space between the existing building and the new 1,400-seat auditorium will become a ‘cultural living room’ looking out on to the surrounding forest and creating a public square.

The new building will be clad in charred timber, while the link building will be covered with a deep red-coloured resin.

The historic Wellington College was originally built in 1856 by John Shaw Junior. The 400-acre campus includes a number of listed buildings built in the Rococo style alongside more modern development built after the seventies.

The architect’s view

‘The proposed building emerges out of its context and pays homage to the historical campus and its heritage landscape by seeking to create new and enhanced visual connections towards the listed buildings. It aims to form a hinge between the listed buildings of the academic quads and takes the opportunity to restructure the somewhat haphazard existing public spaces in the 20th century campus.  The new Performing Arts Centre not only aims to fulfil the arts academic ambition, but offers a unique opportunity to enhance the setting of the listed building by rethinking the public spaces in its immediate context. A more defined and continuous landscape character is thus able to emerge from the proposal.

‘A 1,400-seat performance space generally will create a significant bulk on its site. A circular shape creates a building with no angle:  a form that sits softly within its landscape and gently recedes from every side.  The drum is furthermore sunken into the slope of the site to give a human scale to the massing.In addition, the circular shape ensures that the distances between performers and audience are halved when compared to the more traditional horse-shoe arrangement.’ 

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