Bristol Old Vic

Bristol, UK

Jonathan Rush, Partner at Hoare Lea

Project Lead:
Jonathan Rush

A study in invisibility, comfort and conservation.

Bristol Old Vic is housed in a Grade I listed building. Built in 1766, it’s considered the oldest continuously-running theatrical auditorium in the UK. Last refurbished in the early 1970s, the mechanical and electrical systems were at the end of their economic life and inadequate for modern theatrical experiences.

Bristol Old Vic

Behind the scenes.

The theatre needed to upgrade the systems, opening up inaccessible spaces and maximising the full potential of the site. Not only was the beautiful original structure to be conserved and protected, but the theatre was also to remain functional throughout the refurbishment.

Our work consisted of upgrading the services infrastructure in order to cater for today’s energy demands. We installed an electrical distribution system, new lighting, fire detection systems, heating, cooling and water systems – all behind the scenes. Having them out of sight allows the Old Vic’s stunning interior to shine.

Safety and comfort.

One of the biggest benefits of our work was comfort. In the past, audiences and performers suffered during seasonal extremes. Now, the theatre is controlled with a comfort cooling system that regulates conditions all year round. Similarly, with a predominantly wooden structure, the risk of fire presented a real concern. However, protection couldn’t come at the cost of aesthetic. A rethink was required. We specified a high-pressure water-misting system with a small tank and pipework that could be hidden into the existing structure. Our early-warning smoke detection system also provides a primary layer of protection for this treasured theatre – and ensures the Old Vic can now enjoy a long-lasting encore.

Key Figures
1766 Opened
2012 Encore
Grade 1 Listed building