Bedales Theatre
In Brief

Bedales School


Construction value:
£1.6 million


The theatre at Bedales School provides both rehearsal and performance space for drama in an independent school with a strong tradition in performing arts education. The school has a history of oak-framed building, the most famous of which is the library designed in 1928 by the Arts and Crafts architect Ernest Gimson. Our proposal was to construct a contemporary theatre, using a green oak frame, within the architectural traditions of the school.

In keeping with the ideology of this collaboration, the roof and walls have been clad internally and externally with sustainable home-grown timber, Douglas Fir and English Larch. The final outcome was one of the largest timber frame structures to be constructed in the UK at that time.

The auditorium houses flexible seating arrangements for up to 300 people, with a backstage/ workshop area that can be opened up to supply a greater area for proscenium arch performances and larger school functions.

The building is designed to be naturally ventilated, an unusual feature for an auditorium of this size. The design team secured a grant from the Energy Design Advisory Service which helped define a simple natural ventilation system incorporating a ‘coolth store’ in the void beneath the auditorium seating. The stack effect generated by the 18-metre high chimney at the apex of the pyramidal auditorium draws cool air through the underfloor space during performances, as well as exhausting heat generated by the audience and stage lighting.


1998 The Popli Khalat-Bari Award

1998 Civic Trust Award 

1997 RIBA Award

1997 Royal Fine Art Commission and BSkyB Building of the Year

1997 The TRADA Carpenters' Award 

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