The scheme would include a striking new entrance on the building's iconic façade, a new restaurant on the first floor, and create more opportunities for performance outside the traditional theatre space.
As Birmingham's premier producing theatre, known for its pioneering artistic spirit and arched frontage, the original design of The REP was underpinned by its 'democratic auditorium' intentionally having no boxes, balconies or restricted views from its 800 seats. The remodelling scheme aims to reflect that ethos in the front of house, creating a more permeable façade and open plan layout internally, that would increase footfall and engagement with the theatre's activities.
The REP is targeting a 2021 completion date to coincide with the celebration of its 50th anniversary on Centenary Square. Nestled between the Library of Birmingham and the International Convention Centre, the design aims to reassert the theatre's presence on the Square. The submission of the proposals coincides with the imminent completion of Graeme Massie Architects' competition-winning redevelopment of Centenary Square.
APEC Architects, specialists in conservation and community work, has been keen to preserve the integrity of the original design. Consultation for the project included conversations with the original architect, Graham Winteringham, who confirmed that a central entrance was originally considered but ruled out due to the location of a pool in a civic square design that was never realised.
The REP, like most arts organisations, has suffered significant recent funding cuts, meaning that aside from the timely context of the area's regeneration, the project is also necessary for the theatre to remain financially sustainable; the remodel should help increase revenues, particularly through increased food and drink sales.
Rachael Thomas, Executive Director at Birmingham Repertory Theatre said:
“We're delighted to be working with APEC on developing The REP to make it even more welcoming and inclusive. The designs have been developed through user consultation to inform a feasibility study before developing fuller plans. The proposed alterations will create a new and more prominent central entrance as well as making modifications to the internal public areas to develop an informal performance space, improve orientation and access to the theatres whilst also making physical improvements to the bar and catering provision to maximise commercial income and improve ambience, service, access and operability.”
Naomi Fisher, Director, APEC Architects said:
“At a time when so much mid-late 20th-century heritage is disappearing, the proposals seek to celebrate the theatre's iconic façade and embrace changes that will help secure The REP's future. During our intense period of user engagement, it was clear that both the building and the organisation are held in great affection, and its reputation for pioneering theatre extends well beyond the city and region; placing the theatre at the heart of Birmingham's cultural portfolio. This scheme seeks to widen access to theatre in the broadest sense of the word. We have immensely enjoyed working collaboratively with The REP's team to develop proposals that reflect the vision and values of this great company.”