Architecture, News I 12.11.15 I by

Foster Wilson Architects convert a Moravian church into a theatre in Bedford

A Moravian church in Bedford has been reborn as a performing arts space for a local school and the surrounding community.

Foster Wilson Architects converted the church and the adjoining Minister’s House to create The Quarry Theatre at St Luke’s: a new cultural hub that includes a 286-seat courtyard theatre. A glass foyer-cum-art gallery extension wraps around the exterior of the chapel, offering views across the old churchyard and Bedford School.

The restored Minister’s House now plays host to front-of-house facilities, a 60-seat studio theatre and offices.

Foster Wilson Architects – a RIBA Award-shortlisted practice that specialises in performing arts spaces, with past projects including Hoxton Hall and The Parabola Arts Centre in Cheltenham – have retained the chapel as a single space.

‘The [main] theatre has been created by inserting a new steel structure [in the church], which provides two levels of side galleries, linked to the original balcony, and also provides structural support for overhead stage lighting and rigging,’ says Tim Foster.

Courtesy of Foster Wilson Architects
Photography: Courtesy of Foster Wilson Architects

Original exterior brickwork of the chancel also remains and is visible in the foyer, while new oak flooring and joinery has been added throughout to link past and present.

Though redundant for some time, the site was kept in good nick by Bedford School, who will be sharing the space with local community groups and professional touring productions.

Says Foster: ‘We enjoyed a good relationship with the conservation officer and were able to agree some substantial alterations to make the scheme possible, in return for which the existing fabric [of the building] has been carefully repaired and restored.’

The project has been selected as a Regional Finalist for the Civic Trust Awards 2015.

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