Hall for Cornwall occupies a historically significant Grade II*-listed building built in 1846. The restoration work has honoured the venue’s heritage by ensuring its sensitive conservation. The £17m upgrades have brought enhanced capacity of 1,253 seats and comfort with 300 additional seats and improved sightlines.
The heritage of the buildings have been conserved and restored bringing them to better use. The renovated venue provides a warmer welcome and improved experience for visitors, including new cafés and bar areas on both sides of the building.
The building was stripped back and a new, larger three-tier auditorium – the Cornwall Playhouse – has been created. The building itself has also been opened up to include more cafes and bars, and workspaces for businesses, as well as ‘hidden’ public spaces that host youth and community projects.
A delicate balance was consistently maintained throughout the design and build process to ensure the heritage of the building was not lost whilst an enhanced experience would be had by future audience members. This required the team to have an in-depth understanding of the history of the project in addition to designing a high-quality experience for all users.
Integrated into the design of the building are little slivers of space between the auditorium and the historic buildings that surround it. These little slots are the joy of it because it’s where you can see that it was once the Town Hall, that it was the Customs House and that it was the Market Hall, all the stories are etched in the stonework.
The project was financed by eight major funders plus individual philanthropists, national and local trusts, foundations, and community fundraising campaigns. This required careful control, at all stages of the development to ensure that the funding criteria of all of the individual funding organisations were met.
The social and economic success of the Hall for Cornwall is equally critical in securing its future. The restored venue is set to attract 300,000 people annually and work with 50,000 children in every primary and secondary school in Cornwall in the first five years. The reimagined space will operate as a charity, with all surpluses invested in working with young people, increasing the impact of Cornish creative industries, and creating co-productions with Cornish and national partners. In addition to this Hall for Cornwall is predicted to add over £35 million to the Cornish economy over the next 5 years.
The project is one of three nominated by the leading magazine of the theatre industry, The Stage, for ‘Theatre Building of the Year’ at their 2022 Awards.
Sir Tim Rice, the world-famous lyricist and Honorary President of Hall for Cornwall, described the refurbished theatre as “brilliantly reimaged”.
- The new auditorium, named Cornwall Playhouse, is a beautiful and flexible open space on three-tiered levels, providing a new intimate relationship between performer and audience and enabling the organisation to deliver its artistic vision. The auditorium is seen as an open space, sitting within the granite box of the original marketplace walls visible from within the theatre space. Innovative movable shutters allow the acoustic and atmosphere to be varied for drama, classical music, comedy and rock and pop gigs.
- The project has increased the theatre’s audience capacity, and provides a more intimate atmosphere with improved sightlines and acoustics, whilst improving accessibility and conserving and restoring important heritage elements and bringing them into better use. The refurbished venue also provides a warmer welcome and improved audience experience, including new cafés and bar areas on both sides of the listed buildings and space to change facilities. Sir Tim Rice, the world-famous lyricist, described the refurbished theatre as “brilliantly reimagined”.
- Increased access to Arts and Culture for the community of Cornwall will result from the refurbishment of the historic buildings, together with the facilities required to support a sustainable business model for the organisation. The new Husa Hub (meaning ‘to create an illusion or dream’ in Cornish), will combine the venue’s artist development programmes with a dynamic and diverse co-working space; nurturing and supporting Cornish performance artists and bringing together local and creative businesses, start-ups, artists, charities and social enterprises.