December 2013: The conversion of St. Luke’s Church, a Grade II listed 19th century Moravian chapel, into a new performing arts centre for Bedford School has begun. The project involves the renovation and conversion of the listed chapel into a 300-seat galleried courtyard theatre and restoration of the listed Minister’s House to provide front of house facilities, offices and a reinstated congregation hall as a rehearsal and teaching studio. A new single storey rear extension will be added to provide foyer and back stage facilities, radiating around the apsidal end of the chancel and opening onto a landscaped garden.
The project has involved careful negotiations with the local authority and local residents to develop a scheme that is sympathetic to the listed building and the Conservation Area in which it stands. The external form of the extension is designed to sit comfortably alongside the chancel, whilst employing modern architectural language and detailing.
The theatre is a flat-floored flexible studio space created by inserting a new steel structure within the volume of the existing church, which is intended to allow the existing interior features to remain visible. The existing balcony is retained but extended forward and re-tiered, to provide good sightlines to the stage area. Two levels of new galleries will be inserted at the sides, together with high-level suspensions for scenery and stage lighting.
The lower gallery will be used for the audience while the upper gallery will provide technical facilities and a control room.
The new theatre in St Luke’s is an opportunity for Bedford School to further engage with the local community by providing a venue that can be used in a number of ways: for school productions, for hire by local amateur groups, for medium scale professional touring productions and for local community groups to hold lectures or meetings.
Project Manager & Quantity Surveyor: Ainsley & Partners
Structural Engineer: Price & Myers
Services Engineer: Ernest Griffiths
Theatre Consultant: Theatreplan
Acoustic Consultant: Gillieron Scott Acoustic Design