Circular timber performing arts centre by Studio Seilern opens at Wellington College

Circular timber performing arts centre by Studio Seilern opens at Wellington College

It’s rare for school campuses to have their own performance centres and even rarer for these to be set within beautiful natural settings, such as the green Berkshire countryside; yet this new project by Studio Seilern Architects for Wellington College ticks both boxes. The £15m GW Annenberg Performing Arts Centre has just been launched at the English independent day and boarding school. 

The architects’ design was inspired by historical Greek amphitheatres; wood-clad and circular in form the building feels natural and inclusive. The circular 1,400-seat theatre also allows ‘young performers not to feel overwhelmed by a large auditorium’, add the architects. 

This new cultural venue in Berkshire is inspired by historic Greek amphitheatres. Photography: Hufton + Crow

Careful consideration to acoustics, circulation and detailing – for example, the auditorium’s balcony fronts have been designed as an evolving surface to reflect and scatter sound – ensures a high quality performance arena for the students. The building’s foyer doubles as a ‘cultural living room’, say the architects, which provides an area for dialogue and meetings around arts and events, as well as impromptu performances.

The impressive, dusky coloured façade is constructed from charred timber, using a Japanese method known as shou sugi ban – which is a natural treatment. Meanwhile, the vertical planks reflect the verticality of the trees from the surrounding woods. 

Mixing state-of-the-art design and technology with a sensitive approach towards its forest setting, the new performance centre at Wellington College is set to be a valuable addition to student life, enhancing creativity and cultural exchange – but ‘will also bring together our local community and our many partnership schools’, adds Julian Thomas, headmaster of Wellington. §

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