Bennetts Associates has been working with Derby City Council, Derby Theatre, and the University of Derby to develop a scheme to revitalise Derby’s Assembly Rooms which have been closed since a fire in 2016. The potential for partial re-use of the 1978 complex of buildings, originally designed by Casson Conder and Partners, has been the focus of initial design studies, acknowledging the need to create a practical, accessible, and hard-working theatre to accommodate the project’s ambitious brief of technical and performance spaces.
The project creates a learning theatre - a new hub for culture, education, and participation, containing a large-scale theatre, studio theatre and integrated facilities for higher education and community use. The project will enhance the unique cultural offer of Derby Theatre and will expand its reach to the people of Derby and its surrounding area.
The team has focused on understanding the condition of the vacant existing building and the re-use potential of its key spaces and structure. The proposals seek to open up the site to Derby’s Market Place, creating a permeable ground floor that allows day-long activity in the theatre to spill out into the City’s main civic space. The theatre is part of Derby’s Cultural Heart masterplan which will provide new homes, hotel, and workplace accommodation on existing under-used sites in the city centre.
The urban design strategy has been developed with the input of Historic England and will enhance the setting of historic buildings and provide better containment of the city’s Market Place and Cathedral Green. Furthermore, whole-life carbon assessments have driven the approaches currently being considered, which sit alongside Derby’s Climate Change Action Plan.