The imaginative and innovative transformation of a listed art-deco cinema to create an all-day cultural hub for Chester which has achieved 1 million visits and sold 180,000 tickets in its first year. The project has resulted in a new type of arts building and has redefined how people use the public spaces both during the day and into the evening. Storyhouse has won many awards since opening in May 2017, including a 2018 RIBA National Award, and the Civic Trust special award for community impact and engagement.
Storyhouse represents a revolution in the way civic and public buildings operate. Bringing a purpose-built theatre and cinema back to the city of Chester after a 10-year absence, Storyhouse has also created a ground-breaking new city library which is spread throughout the building. Building on the success of grass-roots and festival activity it creates a focal point for the arts, reversing the decline in the city’s visitor and evening economy and spearheads the £350m regeneration of its Northgate quarter.
The main public elements of the building are housed in the shell of a redundant but much-loved Odeon cinema which dates from 1936, with the theatre auditorium and backstage accommodation housed in a new extension. The Odeon was hollowed out to reveal the full scale of the original art deco cinema auditorium which has become an informal stage area, café and bar - surrounded by 30,000 open-access library books - and within it a new glass-clad 100-seat cinema screen and mezzanine floor of study space. An extension contains the new theatre, its brick enclosure and flytower echoing the art deco brick of the Odeon, and its outer cladding making it the Odeon’s glass twin.