St Bede’s and Quarry Theatre win praise from judges in RIBA awards

The Quarry Theatre at St Luke's wins RIBA award. Picture: Philip Vile
The Quarry Theatre at St Luke's wins RIBA award. Picture: Philip Vile

Two buildings in Bedford have won awards for their architectural excellence and contribution to society.

St Bede’s Extra Care and The Quarry Theatre at St Luke’s, Bedford School, have won the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) East Awards.

St Bede's Extra Care wins RIBA award. Picture: Tim Crocker

St Bede's Extra Care wins RIBA award. Picture: Tim Crocker

At St Bede’s, judges said the architects PRP of Thames Ditton have managed to provide a scheme of great quality and richness on the site of an old school in Bedford.

Their report said: “The architects have managed to turn the difficulties of a complex site, with a variety in the scale and materials of its neighbours, into a real positive. The development manages to provide 104 one and two bedroom independent living apartments specifically designed for the over 55s, with a combination of shared ownership and social rent to ensure that the scheme is accessible to all, regardless of their budget. The design solution exploits the site restrictions, working with the three retained Victorian villas, and relating the new work to both the existing properties on the site as well as the adjacent housing.

“Despite the amount of accommodation that had to be provided on a tight site the internal spaces are generous, clear in their layout and well-lit from the roof lights, with both the space and natural light adding to the feeling of calmness to the communal accommodation areas.

“A diverse palette of materials is used across the site with various elements complementing each other and the neighbours. Balcony access is used in a very positive way, creating opportunities for social interaction, personalisation of external space and the opportunity of having an external front door, something important to a number of the residents.

“The scheme incorporates a number of community facilities such as a restaurant, hair salon, fitness suite and guest suite, and the jury were pleased to find that areas of the development are being taken on by the residents themselves; from the running of their own shop facility in the main entrance area to undertaking all the gardening to the communal gardens. The jury commend the architects for their skilful manipulation of the site to provide a large number of units, and to be able to do this with an extremely limited budget shows what can be done with expertise and attention to detail.”

The Quarry Theatre at St Luke’s, Bedford School, was designed by Foster Wilson Architects, of London.

The judges said: “The new Quarry Theatre is located in the old Moravian Church on St Peter’s Street. The redundant church has been transformed into a new performing arts theatre for Bedford School and also the local community.

“The new facility creates a 200-300 seat flexible theatre within the church, together with a studio for teaching drama, foyers sufficient to house a full audience (that also double up as teaching spaces), backstage facilities for performers and offices for staff. The building was an obvious fit for a theatre development, however, the architects have skilfully exploited the existing features of the building, striking a balance between respect for the old and the celebration of the new.

“Original features were preserved wherever possible, and the detailing of the new materials and insertions is well thought through. The site offers the school an outward facing location on to the busy urban street, whilst also providing a more private and sheltered approach from the school.

“The problems of dealing with two main entrances have been skilfully resolved; the removal of one of the existing staircases to create a larger circulation space has been dealt with carefully so, rather than feeling like a major upheaval for the existing structure, it appears as a natural development.

“The project was procured through a traditional contract, and this has allowed Foster Wilson Architects to control the construction quality of the project build which is clearly evident in the final outcome. As a result both the town and Bedford School have gained a fantastic new flexible performance space. Although the jury visited the site in March we were all taken with the prospect of an evening performance in the summer with doors to the foyer and bar open to the secluded gardens, and congratulate the architects for what they are sure will be a very successful project for years to come.”

The awards were presented at a ceremony at St John’s College, Cambridge, on Thursday, April 14, hosted by RIBA chief executive Alan Vallance and RIBA East Awards jury chairman Peter Williams of Moses Cameron Williams Architects.

Read more about what the judges said on our website.