Bristol Old Vic, 2018

a new public face for a Georgian theatre

Bristol Old Vic is the oldest continuously working theatre in the English-speaking world, completed in 1776 and at that time completely hidden behind a row of houses in the city’s historic King Street. Successive alterations over the years culminated in 1972 with a new foyer and street frontage by the respected British architect Peter Moro, whose scheme incorporated the neighbouring historic Coopers’ Hall as the main entrance and circulation space. The auditorium and back of house spaces were skilfully renovated by architect Andrzej Blonski in 2012.

Haworth Tompkins have been working with the Old Vic’s creative team since 2015 to open up the Grade I listed theatre’s front of house to a wider, more diverse audience and to place the theatre more visibly at the heart of Bristol’s public life and public space. Radical change was required to address these aims, and so the decision was taken to remove and rebuild entirely the 1970s additions, replacing them with a more transparent and legible foyer space, a new studio theatre in the lower half of the Coopers' Hall and a reinstated grand public room as originally located in its upper half.

The new foyer is conceived as an extension of the street, a covered public square enclosed by a framework of timber and glass to bring day light deep into the space and reveal the much-altered façade of the auditorium for the first time. Mezzanines, winding staircases and viewing platforms will enliven the completed foyer, allowing the entire audience to share a single, convivial space before and after each show, and the local community to use the theatre more densely throughout the day.


bristol old vic theatre

main contractor


project director


project manager

gva acuity

structural engineer


services engineer

max fordham

quantity surveyor

gardiner & theobald

theatre consultant