Jonathan Tuckey Design has completed a new theatre in the grounds of
a school in south east England. True to the practice’s commitment to ‘building on the built’, for which it has earned an international reputation, the new theatre plays a vital role in repairing and enhancing the existing campus.
The new, sustainable building has been carefully crafted to sit in concert with the neighbouring buildings, and succeeds in turning what was once
a featureless car park into an animated civic square. Horris Hill is a day and boarding preparatory school for boys aged between 4 and 13, set within a rural campus in Berkshire. It is located in 85 acres containing woods, sports pitches and a kitchen garden. Outdoor education and extra- curricular activity are fundamental parts of the school, both of which help Horris Hill maintain a whole-school community ethos.
The theatre, which is named after its main benefactor, Lord David Brownlow, founder of the David Brownlow Charitable Foundation, will significantly enhance the personal development of the 130 pupils attending Horris Hill. It will afford access to all aspects of theatre practice: performance, production and design – and embed these into the culture of the school.
Outside of teaching hours, the new theatre will open up to the wider community through local theatre clubs and groups, providing facilities to sustain these activities at a time when countless arts venues are closing across the UK. Designed to host school assemblies, music recitals and drama productions, the development comprises three unique spaces, creating a building which is animated on all sides, activating the whole campus. The three spaces include:
– a 160-seat auditorium and performance space;
– a congregating space around the entrance portico;
– an outdoor amphitheatre on the south elevation, facing the woods and school playing fields, which extends the theatre stage into the surrounding Arcadian landscape.
The design was the outcome of an invited competition, won by the practice in March 2016. The brief called for a theatre that would expand the arts and drama curriculum at the school – in recognition that performing arts improve pupils’ confidence, grasp of languages, debating skills, oratory and aptitude.
Text provided by the architect