Principal Sponsor MBNA gets sneak peek inside UK’s biggest cultural development outside London

Thursday 12 January 2017

Principal Sponsor MBNA gets sneak peek inside UK’s biggest cultural development outside London

MBNA representatives have enjoyed a special tour behind the scenes as the £37 million Storyhouse Development in Chester.

As principal sponsors, MBNA’s senior executive team took a hardhat tour led by Storyhouse artistic director Alex Clifton to show them how work is progressing.

The 7,500-square metre building – the UK’s largest cultural development outside London– will unify a cinema, library and theatre under one roof in the very heart of Chester City Centre. This major infrastructure project will provide a catalyst for further investment in the wider Northgate Quarter redevelopment.

MBNA Chief Executive Ian O’Doherty said: “We last visited the site in February. The progress since then is exceptional. Storyhouse and MBNA are working together on a very exciting innovation. This was the team’s first opportunity to visualise the concept in its new home’.

It is 24 months since construction began and images reveal the art deco Odeon cinema has been sympathetically restored to its former glory, housing the library & cinema. A contemporary extension, finished in brick and glass houses the new theatre spaces.

Works include – completed heritage plasterwork to Odeon cinema’s walls, repointed brickwork using thousands of carefully selected reclaimed bricks. Repairs to art deco features including 1930’s hexagonal cinema clock, ceiling coves, staircases and windows. Under floor heating has been installed using 3.5 miles of pipework. In the main foyer section (which was originally the Odeon cinema’s auditorium) wall panelling and terrazzo flooring have been installed – in the same aesthetic as the original 1930’s. The bar has been fitted and main entrance doors installed. In the new extension, the theatre’s seats have been installed, fly tower completed and lighting fitted. The studio theatre’s walls have been lined and painted and the flooring completed. It is estimated over 40 miles of wiring cover the building.

Over the coming weeks the final finishes are being installed and the building is being ‘energized’, heating and water systems are being commissioned. Plus the building’s signage will be installed, including the Odeon’s iconic canopy.

Alex Clifton, artistic director of Storyhouse said “It’s a great joy to see people’s faces light up when they walk around Storyhouse, particularly when they are as invested in the project as MBNA. The architect’s visuals have always shown the scale of the ambition, but nothing quite captures how Storyhouse can make you feel until you’re actually inside.”

Storyhouse facts and figures

  • The total amount of steel in Storyhouse comes to 1,100 tons – the equivalent of 85 double decker buses
  • Total building floor area – 7,500m2
  • Highest point of the building is the fly tower which is 21m above ground floor level
  • The cinema box has used 18 tons of plasterboard in its construction
  • The largest individual steel members were the beams to support the Rooftop bar which were nearly 20m in length, over 1m deep and weighed nearly 10 tons. Each beam was so big they had to be  manufactured by a bridge deck company.
  • To allow the cinema to be installed a beam weighing over 22 tons (or 22 Polar bears) had to be removed which spanned the full width of the existing building
  • There is approximately 500m2 of copper cladding on the project
  • There was approximately 1800m2 of existing brickwork repointed, if laid out on the ground it would cover one and a half Olympic swimming pools.
  • There is over 35 miles of wiring in the building

Storyhouse opens in May 2017, its opening season of home produced shows are on sale now, more programme information will be announced in the coming weeks. Find out more storyhouse.com

Gallery of images, by Mark Carline.