David Brownlow Theatre

Contemporary theatre brings community space to Berkshire school

About this project

Designed by Jonathan Tuckey Design, the David Brownlow Theatre offers a flexible space for Horris Hill School and its surrounding community. Completed in late 2020, the building was sustainably built from cross-laminated timber (CLT) before being clad in a rich red Viroc.

Bringing performing arts to the community

Nestled amongst the trees in the 85-acre school grounds, the theatre has been crafted to sit effortlessly alongside the neighbouring buildings.

Designed to host school community events such as assemblies, music recitals and drama productions, the development is made up of three distinct spaces including:

-        A 160-seat auditorium and performance space;

-        A congregating space round the entrance;

-        An outdoor amphitheatre which faces the woods and the school playing fields.

During school hours, the new theatre will provide the 130 school pupils with access to all aspects of theatre performance, production and design. Outside school hours, the theatre will offer a new venue for the wider community via local theatre groups and clubs, providing much-needed facilities to sustain access to the performing arts for all.

Sustainability and craftmanship

Architect Jonathan Tuckey Design used natural materials throughout the theatre’s design, helping it to sit harmoniously within its wooded setting.

Replacing a modular 1970s cabin, the new theatre’s structure is built from cross-laminated timber (CLT) and is clad in Viroc wood fibre panelling. The Viroc was machine-cut off-site to reduce waste, before being pieced together by hand on site by a skilled joiner.

Inside the passively ventilated interior, the CLT frame has been left exposed and is lined with beech battens of varying depths. The repetition of the battens is more regimented to the base to emphasise the solidity of the structure before diffusing as they ascend to the ceiling.

The ceiling was modelled to project sound from the stage to the audience and the addition of light grey acoustic panels helps to prevent echoes.

Use of timber

The architects chose to use a CLT frame for its cost-effectiveness and to reduce the amount of construction time on site. In addition, choosing CLT over traditional blockwork saved an estimated 40 tonnes of CO2.

CO2 Assessments

A Cradle to Grave Embodied CO2 Assessment and an Operational and Embodied CO2 Emissions Assessment for the project was carried out by AECB Building Knowledge member Sustainable Solutions. The 40 tonne saving was calculated by the cumulative study of embodied carbon and operational carbon emissions over a lifetime of 60 years after project completion. The assessment considered: assembly, type of materials and products, the quantity, volume, density, place of origin and transport per kg per km, and replacements.

Images credit: Nick Dearden


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