Published on 13 November 2019
As the oldest continually used theatre in the English-speaking world – dating back to 1766 – the Bristol Old Vic has recently undergone a huge £9.3 million makeover and has been given a fresh, contemporary new look with PEFC-certified timber at its heart.
The main timber construction undertaken inside the building comprises of 59 cubic metres of machined and cut-to-size, GL24h PEFC-certified Douglas fir glulam for the structure including the roof beams – supplied by leading French supplier Piveteaubois. Installed by Constructional Timber, the timber used was sourced from a guaranteed legal and sustainable forest and is a superb advert for timber and sustainable construction generally. “Douglas Fir combines remarkable mechanical properties with excellent durability, said Elisabeth Piveteau-Boley, Director, UK and Ireland. “The exposed beams and structural elements in the foyer and auditorium bring a contemporary feel to a historic theatre. PEFC certification provides us with assurances that the timber has been harvested from well-managed forests with the highest levels of stewardship.”
The Douglas fir glulam beams are part of the main structure for the new auditorium and foyer that is now visible from the street and has helped create a very tall and open space that feels light, airy and integrates perfectly with the historic feel of the theatre. The new foyer reveals the auditorium to the city with a glazed façade screened by opening panels.
Crucial to the concept was the use of a timber structure,” said Simon Ricketts, from architects Haworth Tompkins. “The geometries of the existing buildings created a framework for the structural timber of the foyer, which are designed to drop in, touching existing masonry structures as little as possible. Douglas Fir has the warmth of softwood with the fine grain and almost knotless quality of hardwood, which is enhanced by the glulam process. In the roof, the main timbers have no steel, with only the largest spans requiring steel reinforcement.”
“As a design studio we consider responsible timber sourcing and forestry management practices essential to the construction of environmentally sensitive architecture. Specifying PEFC certification as a minimum requirement for all timber used in the Bristol Old Vic restoration allowed the team to ensure that only timber supplied from sustainably managed forests was used in the project. As a result the team was able to construct the glue-laminated ‘diagrid’ foyer structure, external hardwood framing on the main facade and a range of internal timber finishes with PEFC Chain of Custody certification in place.”
Images courtesy Haworth Tompkins/Fred Howorth