The architect's design for Aylesbury Theatre is an interpretation of the surrounding countryside, with its woods and rolling hills. In keeping with this concept, its concrete core, which house the auditorium, is surrounded by a timber frame. The auditorium stands at the heart of the building as if at the heart of the forest. One hundred and ninety geothermal piles make up the foundations.
In plan, the building describes a curved shape similar to a pond, resulting in undulating forms for both the façade and roof. The extensively glazed façade is supported by external timber fins. Tree-like, these taper outwards from base to crown, also supporting the stainless steel clad roof overhang. The fins are restrained in places by fixed timber louvres.
The roof structure incorporates windcatchers to ventilate the front-of-house areas and external plant rooms on either side of the concrete flytower. To integrate services precisely within the complex roof structure, extensive 3D modelling has been used. Our building services team joined the project during construction and worked closely with our structural engineers to solve a number of complex challenges in relation to plant.
Works to the surrounding infrastructure included a service road and new road bridge to provide access from an existing roundabout.
The full range of building services was provided for the Aylesbury Theatre, a curved shape timber and concrete building set in the Buckinghamshire countryside.
The building services team had a challenge when they joined the project during construction. The layouts of the substation and generator rooms were an unusual shape and equipment size, acoustics and ventilation hadn’t been considered in the original design. However, with effective teamwork and quick decisions a positive solution has been achieved.
Working with the architect, internal layouts have been adjusted to fit the transformers and generator without having to move external walls. Dropping floor slabs created space. An additional 4 sq m of louvers dissipate the heat of the generator naturally. The switch room and energy centre were too restricted, so spaces have been found around the building to house satellite switch sub-distributions and equipment.
Extensive 3D modelling has been used to show the complex system of ductwork and pipes. Much was laid behind structural sheer walls that can’t be knocked through, and no access points had been provided. Methods of accessing the ductwork have been investigated and implemented in conjunction with our structural engineers.
The surrounding wooded countryside was the architect's inspiration for the design of Aylesbury Theatre. An organic curved shape in plan suggestive of a pond, the building is part timber frame, part concrete. The extensively glazed façade is supported by full height timber fins that taper out from base to crown like trees. The fins also serve to support the steel-frame roof. The auditorium is housed in the building's concrete core.
Our façades team worked to integrate the aesthetic criteria of the brief, which called for a gracefully random pattern of glass and timber, with the performance-related requirements to provide shading and thermal control. A shade range analysis was used to identify areas of solar concentration — we widened the timber fins to shade the glass in these sensitive areas. The steel roof extends over the south-facing elevation, providing additional shading where the sun-path diagram indicates heaviest exposure.
High performance glass minimizes solar gain, while openable timber louvres provide further shading and also permit ready access to clean the glass.
fire & safety
Ramboll's fire engineers were appointed to provide a fire safety strategy for the award-winning Aylesbury Waterside Theatre – part of a greater regeneration project for the area. The new-build theatre has a curvaceous asymmetric timber-framed and glazed façade enclosing a rectilinear concrete frame auditorium. The space between the two structures is geometrically complex. Over a basement and three floors it accommodates front- and back-of-house facilities as well as function rooms and plant.
Our fire specialists liaised with the architect and our Ramboll colleagues concerning the structural, building services and façades aspects of the project to provide an assessment of the stage C plans. A detailed 3D computer model of the scheme was used to examine the structure. Iterative simulations were run to identify the best solution for the selection of room layouts, materials and finishes, plant and equipment. Recommendations were also made regarding the use of sprinkler coverage, compartmentation and fire-fighting equipment/access.
Sophisticated 3D modelling software also helped predict smoke, fire and crowd behaviour during fire-related incidents. As a result, we demonstrated to the satisfaction of the appropriate authorities that escape times from the auditorium during a foyer fire could be safely extended beyond recommended guidelines. Our strategy also demonstrated the safe combination of public and performer exits and warranted the integration of the public facilities for conference and private hire use.
The completed fire strategy fulfilled the strategic requirements of the client without compromising the architect’s vision.