2012 - 2017

Storyhouse is housed in the redundant shell of a 1930s Odeon in the centre of Chester. The project presented an opportunity to create an innovative city-centre public building which will be open 12 hours a day, re-occupying the art deco cinema interiors and re-inventing the way a city library is used and perceived.

Storyhouse connects people through storytelling, and brings theatre and cinema back to Chester after a decade-long absence, the building includes a large main theatre space with a flytower, a studio, a cinema and a city library with over 700m of shelving throughout the building.

The main cinema volume of the old Odeon had been sub-divided into five screens and many original features had been removed. Stripping out these sub-divisions and the redundant balcony structure revealed an enormous internal volume which retains much of its original streamlined art deco plasterwork which has become the focal point of the new building. Café and bar are at ground level below the new 100-seat cinema screen which is accessed from a new mezzanine level.

“One of the most exciting projects in England at the moment… A powerful, modern, forward-thinking vision.”

Sir Peter Bazalgette
Chairman Arts Council


The full scale of the proscenium plasterwork which once surrounds the former Odeon’s screen is now visible. With the screen removed, the foyer space now continues right through the old proscenium opening to reveal the brick-clad main auditorium of the new-build theatre which is built as a new extension. Red-painted steel stairs and walkways give access to the theatre and the studio theatre above are suspended like theatre scenery in the glazed gap between the old and new buildings.

The new extension containing the theatre and studio is conceived as a companion piece to the Odeon. The main auditorium and flytower volume which form the armature of the extension are clad in brick, steel-framed audience circulation walkways flank the brick auditorium enclosed by glazed cladding. The main theatre itself is designed to operate as an 800-seat theatre with a programme of touring productions for some of the year, but is reconfigurable to a 500-seat thrust-stage. The 150-seat studio sits on a series of steel transfer beams and columns which provide acoustic isolation. Clad in copper, it creates a distinct element on the skyline.



  • Upfront Carbon (A1-A5) –
  • 1346 kgCO₂e/m²


Project Information

  • Client
  • Cheshire West and Chester Council
  • Area
  • 7,000 m²
  • M&E Engineer
  • Foreman Roberts
  • Project Manager
  • Buro Four
  • Theatre Consultant
  • Charcoalblue
  • Acoustics
  • Sandy Brown Associates
  • Planning Consultant
  • WYG
  • Structural Engineer
  • WSP
  • Main Contractor
  • Kier
  • Executive Architect
  • Ellis Williams


  • 2018
  • RIBA National Award – Winner
  • 2018
  • RIBA Award – RIBA North West Award
  • 2018
  • LABC Building Excellence Awards – Winner, 'Best Change of Use of an Existing Building' category
  • 2018
  • RICS Awards – Highly Commended, 'Community Benefit' category, North-West Region
  • 2018
  • Civic Trust Awards – Special Award for Community Impact and Engagement
  • 2018
  • Civic Trust Awards – Winner
  • 2017
  • FX International Design Awards – Winner, 'Leisure or Entertainment Venue' category
  • 2017
  • Brick Awards – Winner, 'Public Building' category
  • 2017
  • Building Awards – Refurbishment Project of the Year