Reasons for change
Chichester Festival Theatre is a robust building, but one that is now showing the effects of wear and tear.
The original layout of the building was suited to its initial purpose as a short summer festival venue.
Many of the back of house areas were rudimentary, but there was, nonetheless, an exhilarating 'make do and mend' attitude. The wardrobe department, for example, was housed in a local disused pub and additional dressing rooms were provided in the form, literally, of tents in the park.
Extensions and Additions
As Chichester Festival Theatre successfully moved from its original role as a summer festival to one staging work all year round, and due to the intermittent nature of available funding, extensions were added in a somewhat piecemeal fashion. The drawings submitted by Powell and Moya for the original building showed future development phases and, in 1967, the first extensions were carried out and overseen by Philip Powell. These, unlike subsequent additions, were in keeping with the initial proposals.
From this point in time, later additions were added as necessary and, as is often the case where funding is tight, the solutions chosen dealt with the most pressing needs, without the luxury of being able to take a broader strategic view as to how they might impact upon the site as a whole.
As well as upgrading and renewing the physical structure, outdated services and access facilities, we wish to explore and challenge the way the Theatre utilises space.
Space is at a premium backstage, with the building being used way beyond the capacities envisaged during the 1960s.
We have examined:
- the use of public spaces, particularly at times where the park cannot accommodate the overspill
- the approach through the car park which is harsh, municipal and in stark contrast to the parkland setting beyond, with audiences, in effect, being forced to enter through a service yard
- broader accessibility than is currently afforded by the building particularly exploring access and emergency escape for people with disabilities
- better access in the building for disabled artists
- the extremely outdated technical facilities
- how to improve video and sound technologies
The major challenge for us is how we can continue to expand and adapt whilst preserving the Festival Theatre's architectural significance.