SONNING MILL THEATRE
|Client:||Sonning Mill Theatre|
|Construction:||Refurbishment & Timber Frame|
|Team||Steve Gee, Jason Chandler|
Sonning Mill Theatre is located on the B478 at Sonning Eye, where it crosses the river Thames. The site houses a number of buildings, the most prominent of which is a listed water mill. The mill closed in 1969 and remained empty until 1977, when it was adapted to house the theatre. The theatre’s owners invited OSG to provide design proposals that would allow some of the existing buildings on the site to be converted into residential apartments in order to create revenue, which would, in turn, allow the main theatre to be refurbished and maintained.
The current proposals involve converting the top two floors of the main theatre building into apartments, with one apartment located in the large roof space and two apartments on the floor below; a detached building located to the southwest of the site is to be converted into a pair of semi-detached houses. (The building is currently used only as a rehearsal space and the upper floors comprise a prop storage area, general stores and offices.)
Because of the historic nature of the site, we have been extremely careful about the design of the apartments, especially within the main theatre building where the primary roof timbers are seen as an essential element of the building’s listed status. We have produced a design that allows all the main trusses to be retained, while introducing a new lift for access and ensuring that fire escape strategies continue to work effectively.
Probably the two biggest issues with the project were the fact that the site is located between two rivers (both part of the Thames) and is home to a very rare species of Pipistrelle bat. These issues affected the design: the existence of the bats restricted work on the rehearsal studio roof space, and the presence of the rivers meant we needed to provide a scheme with an elevated ground floor, as part of the flood evacuation strategy. The solution was to provide an additional building, effectively just a roof space, that the bats could use instead of the existing roof void. This enabled us to use the existing space and raise both the ground and first floor levels within the building.