Max Fordham, working with Witherford Watson Mann Architects, created a new theatre in the courtyard of the 17th century stable courtyard at the Grade II* listed Nevill Estate in Leicestershire. We provided M&E and Architectural Lighting services for the project.
The theatre is designed to host the estate’s annual Summer Opera Programme and is on a confined site. Our design and strategy had to suit the seasonality of the theatre and the limited space of the historic structure. We achieved this by pulling the new conditioning plant away from the building and supplying air through a 30m, below-ground duct. Rather than having permanent plant operating year round, temporary plant is hired in for the festival period.
Within the auditorium, high-level attenuated vents act as the exhaust and allow the building to be naturally ventilated outside of the festival period. This strategy allowed the services to be sensitively and invisibly integrated into the architecture of the building.
The lighting design is also critical to the success of the project. Fittings were selected to meet the architect's vision of a 'raw' aesthetic, in keeping with the original agricultural use of the building. Decorative, warm exposed LED lamps alongside a bespoke central pendant - incorporating twenty eight porcelain shades - give subtle variations in light, enhancing the character of the space. Smooth, theatre-quality dimming was ensured by rigorous manufacturer testing. Theatre-style fittings above the stage provide both work and house lighting.
The lighting infrastructure is designed so that performance lighting can be hired in for the festival period along with a temporary control desk; fixed permanent lighting is kept to a minimum.
Unusually for a theatre, a large rooflight above the stalls allows plenty of daylight into the auditorium. During a summer performance this creates a dramatic start to the show; the blind slowly closes, the daylight fades, the performance begins…