David Brownlow Theatre

Education & Public Sector

Location: Newbury, Berkshire

Architect: Jonathan Tuckey Design

Client: Horris Hill School

Structural engineer: Webb Yates Engineers

Main contractor: Vale Southern Construction Ltd

Joinery: Peak Carpentry

Wood supplier: Eurban

Theatre Consultant: Charcoalblue

M&E: Skelly & Couch Ltd

QS: Marstan BDB LLP

Species: CLT (Austria), Viroc panels (Portugal), beech

Photograph: ©NickDearden

This sustainable theatre building has been carefully crafted to sit harmoniously with the neighbouring buildings within the wooded campus setting. Natural materials create a passively ventilated theatre, designed to host school assemblies, music recitals and drama productions. The building is animated on all sides and transforms a once featureless carpark into a civic square. The structure uses a CLT frame clad with Viroc wood fibre panelling that was machine cut off-site and pieced together by hand as a single piece of joinery. A low operational energy requirement was fundamental to the overall design philosophy. The project draws inspiration from Christine Boyer’s book The City of Collective Memory in its recognition that the theatre will be a stage set for everyday life. The design borrows historical motifs such as the standing stalls of Tudor theatre, classical theatre proscenium and colonnade, and motifs from Renaissance ecclesiastical architecture. Inside, the CLT frame is left exposed and lined with beech battens of varying depths to reference the articulation of the external façade. The repetition of battens is more regimented at the base to emphasise the solidity of the structure, this is diffused as it ascends to create a sense of a firmament in the upper part of the theatre. Light grey acoustic panels absorb sound and prevent echoes.