Sustainable Architecture for a new extension to the theatre


West Acre, Kings Lynn

Date of completion:
March 2016

Providing high quality design with a good standard of amenity for a new extension to the popular Westacre theatre in West Acre, whilst recognising and enhancing the intrinsic character of the area.


An environmentally friendly home in Emneth that showcases exceptional design that is not only aesthetically pleasing but also strives to be kind to, and interact with, the local and global environment. 


An environmentally friendly theatre that extends from the existing converted Methodist Chapel theatre to create a 150-seat auditorium, whilst respecting and interacting with the unique rural environment of West Acre.

This development was achieved in two phases.  

Phase 1:

  • workshop and creative arts space 

  • a gallery extension  

  • a café bar and an 

  • external terrace overlooking the meadow  

Phase 2:

  • 150 seat performance space

  • Workshop

  • Stores 

  • WCs, showers

  • dressing rooms, lighting box, kitchenettes and external works.  

Benefiting from:

  • Slate grey trapezoidal powder coated steel roof cladding 

  • A mixture of brick render and timber cladding with a single storey glazed link to the existing chapel.

  • Re-arranged and accented main entrance, with pergola to ensure a clear route of entrance for theatre goers

  • ‘In and out’ access, 2.4x120m visibility splays

  • Air Source Heat Pump and MVHR system

  • Loggia (providing a link to the main phase 1 extension and allow for a breakout space) 

  • low level bollard lights – to avoid disturbing the locals

The full story

Westacre theatre has operated from two performing spaces from 1990 to 2011 comprising of a 90-seat studio in the converted Methodist Chapel, which has been the subject of numerous sensitive extensions in the past, and an outdoor summer theatre located 300m away from the studio theatre. The continued use of the theatre as it stands is untenable, due to many factors such as noise pollution and structure.

The theatre is situated in the heart of West Norfolk and the theatre’s location is key to its success most notably because it is located seemingly in the middle of many towns, villages and cities.

The approach for the new redesign is the creation of a 150-seat theatre extension, taking on the appearance of a barn style building given the rural location, with a steel portal frame with masonry cavity wall with timber cladding.

We then linked back to the existing buildings with a single storey foyer, which serves to act as a lightweight link and also provides a breakout space for pre and post-performance drinks and light bites.

In order for the spaces to flow we felt it pragmatic to have a centrally located entrance hub allowing visitors to enter the building centrally and filter to the relevant areas (either left for pre-show suppers or directly through to the foyer space).

The external appearance of the proposed development has been informed by the underlying design ethos and analysis of the architectural styles, rhythm and development pattern of the area and site.

Creating an eco-friendly, theatre in West Acre

In order to meet the overarching energy and CO2 requirements of the Building Regulations, we will go above the minimum by heating with an air source heat pump and incorporate photovoltaic panels and an MVHR system to the performance space.

We believe that through the pursuit of sustainable development this proposal enhances the quality of the built and natural environment as well as improving the quality of life of its inhabitants. A landscaping scheme was put together to soften the impact of the extension, as well as creating extra green space.

In order to avoid overheating, the foyer incorporates a planted pergola to the southern elevations to create solar shading and an opening rooflight to create natural stack ventilation. 

The external hard and soft landscaping of the new extension creates a vista and a large plaza type area for visitors to gather and to proceed along the pergola to the main entrance. The main entrance is also accentuated with a planted pergola, which also breaks up this elevation and provides a drop off area.

Finally, this finished project enhances and supports the economic sustainability of the village, supporting a low carbon future, with renewable energy generation and mitigating the risk of climate change and flood risk. Conserving and enhancing the natural environment is something that Swann Edwards Architecture puts to the forefront of planning.

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