York, United Kingdom
In De Matos Ryan’s renovation of York Theatre Royal, sensitive and ingenious lighting plays a vital role in lending coherence to the diverse parts of a building that has been much altered over its 272-year history. At the theater’s core is an 18th-century auditorium constructed over medieval foundations, around which a larger stone envelope was built in the late 19th century. A 1967 extension by Patrick Gwynne added foyer and café spaces on two stories. Its glass walls reveal an internal forest of concrete columns whose mushroom profiles produce the impression of pointed arches when seen in perspective, subtly alluding to the gothic style of the Victorian facades.
At the time, a building review in The Architects’ Journal noted the way that the transparent extension brought the activities of the theater into full public view, “particularly at night . . . when the interior is brilliantly lit by spotlights.” By the time De Matos Ryan arrived on the scene, this effect had been largely lost. Gwynne’s original fixtures had been replaced piecemeal over time, while retrofitted mechanical and electrical equipment had infested the concrete soffits.
The firm’s principal task was to boost audiences and encourage building use at other times by improving the bars and foyers “in such a way that it’s obvious that this is a place with life in it,” says partner Angus Morrogh-Ryan.
In the older building, discreet spotlights are now trained on patches of exposed medieval and Victorian stone walls, celebrating the theater’s layered history. In the extension, the architects stripped out clutter and used light to capture Gwynne’s original ambience. As new cable routes could not be cut through the protected concrete, a linear fixture was devised to sit within the shallow channels formed at the junctions between the spreading column tops. A black aluminum band sits flush with the concrete, forking to follow fault lines across the soffits. Spotlights mounted on recessed track hang from the center, while LED-lit translucent strips along both edges seem to detach the fixture from its surroundings. Cables for audiovisual and fire-detection equipment are also integrated in the compact installation.
Relatively few spots point downward. Most are directed at columns and soffits, whose illuminated surfaces contribute to the perception of a well-lit space. Warm white light brings out the mellow, sandy hues of the locally sourced concrete aggregate that Gwynne used to harmonize with the York stone facades. Recreating Gwynne’s distribution of light relied more on trial and error than calculation, says Morrogh-Ryan. “I was up ladders myself changing things until we got it right.”
Circular cast-glass skylights above the main stair, originally illuminated by exterior fixtures, had long since failed and been removed. De Matos Ryan installed modern equivalents ringed by color-changeable LEDs. The ability to vary the color of light applies throughout, and allows foyers and circulation areas to reflect theater programming or to function as small performance spaces. In a new bar in the Victorian building, the counter appears as a luminous band. Its design references technologies tested by Gwynne. In place of backlit Bakelite—which he used for signage—De Matos Ryan designed translucent Corian panels backed by sheets of clear acrylic, edge-lit by LED strips on all four sides.
Another social space, a street-side café, has been prominently located in the Victorian building’s former entrance colonnade, which has been partially glazed to enclose it. Downlights in its slatted ceiling radiate a warmth that draws theatergoers in. The newly cleaned gothic facade was also given low-key accents by subtle rows of uplights. “Local conservation officers might still say we’ve done too much,” says Morrogh-Ryan, “but we wanted to give the building a civic presence.” With the glazed café and extension glowing like lanterns, the welcome offered by the theater’s exterior is an enticing prelude to the warmth now found within.
De Matos Ryan
Personnel in architect's firm who should receive special credit:
Director in Charge: Angus Morrogh-Ryan (Registered Architect)
Price Myers LLP
Project managment: Bilfinger GVA
William Birch & Sons
Hufton & Crow
Metal/glass curtain wall: Gresson Ltd – Glazing
Moisture barrier: Peter Cox Ltd – Waterproofing
Other cladding unique to this project: GIP Consultancy Ltd - GRP Entrance Canopy
Elastomeric: Decothane - Sika Liquid Plastics Ltd
Glass: Gresson Ltd – Colonnade Structural Glazing
Skylights: Sika Liquid Plastics Ltd,DECOLIGHT Dome, Polycarbonate Triple skin Diffused with GRP 300mm
Entrances: Tormax automatic doors.
Wood doors: Peter Barker Joinery
Fire-control doors, security grilles: HAG Shutters & Grilles Ltd – Fire Curtains
Special doors: Peter Barker Joinery
Locksets: Electromagnetic Lock.Mortised mounted: Dorma EM 1800
Closers: Door closer with electromagnetic hold-open. Surface mounted: DORMA TS 93 EMF
Exit devices: Tormax automatic doors.
Pulls: Allgood Modric
Security devices: HAG Shutters & Grilles Ltd
Other special hardware: Lever Handle: Allgood Modric Lever Handles 3510
Acoustical ceilings: Black Valchromat slats with Echo-Panel27 in-between (Foyer Bar walls and Colonnade ceiling)
Suspension grid: Titan Interior Solutions Ltd – Suspended Ceilings
Demountable partitions: TBS Fabrications Ltd – WC cubicles
Cabinetwork and custom woodwork: Peter Barker Joinery
Paints and stains: Crosby Decorators Ltd – Decorating
Wall coverings: Universal render to Medieval/Georgian wall
Paneling: Black Valchromat slats with Echo-Panel27 in-between (Foyer Bar walls and Colonnade ceiling)
Solid surfacing: Corian bars
Special surfacing: Terrazzo to Ground Floor Foyer & Bar areas
Floor and wall tile: Hexagon ‘Program’ tiles to WCs
Resilient flooring: ‘Nightingale’ Cork to 1967 Restaurant floor
Carpet: Carpet to Colonnade, Auditorium, First Floor Theatre Bar & House Right stairs
Reception furniture: Backlit Corian
Fixed seating: Theatre fixed seating : Auditoria Services
Chairs: Hay AAC43 chair. Fully upholstered, lacquered flat oak leg.
Tables: Pedrali Ypsilon table with 4 point cross base, W690mm x D690mm x H730mm.
Interior ambient lighting: LED tape and tracks : High output RGB + warm white LED light strip with white round short profile.
Downlights: Recessed down lights: Small 13W Accent Dark trimless LED. White finish. Warm white LED
Tasklighting: Mirror lights: Dio LED wall surface mounted light. Warm white LED.
Exterior: External spot lights LED
Dimming system or other lighting controls: Lighting Logic
Elevators/escalators: Main Lift: Elevator Platform Elfo (Installed by Access Lifts Ltd)
Accessibility provisions: Platform Lift: EastLift by Liftup (Installed by Access Lifts Ltd)
AD Environmental Ltd – Mechanical
Energy management or building automation system: M&R Electrical Services Ltd – Electrical
Other unique products that contribute to sustainability: Building Management System
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