nicoll russell studios
architects + interior designers

The New Byre Theatre


St Andrews, Scotland

St Andrews is an architecturally and historically rich town, with unique charms where its fabric and buildings sometimes take on an almost museum like quality. The Byre sits in exactly such an area and fronts one of the principle routes through the town, surrounded by a variety of scales from the five storey St Leonard’s public school to the east, traditional two and a half storey terraced houses along Abbey Street to the north and south, and stone built garden walls and narrow vennels to the west. The Byre of course had its own homespun charms, having grown steadily since its humble beginnings in a cattle shed in 1933, which we felt we should not avoid.
The knub of the whole project was therefore to somehow respond to those challenges whilst squeezing a fully functioning theatre, with all its support accommodation, into the assembled site, which was only made up of two domestic feus, whilst creating a sophisticated architectural response and maintaining the spirit of the Byre itself. Our response was borne by a sensitivity to the site as well as our passion for the arts, which allowed us to surgically graft these state of the art facilities, including a two hundred and twenty seat auditorium with a height of twenty meters, seamlessly into the site and to negotiate the many planning and conservation hurdles to eventually realise the building.
The Theatre grows from the existing town’s fabric and houses its oval concrete auditorium under a ‘barn’ roof, with the public functions situated in a glazed vennel linking Abbey Street and a captured garden to the west, on one side of the auditorium, and all the support accommodation located on the other side. The sensitivity of the massing of the building is continued in its appropriate use of natural materials and sometimes industrial detailing to physically ground it on the site and with its history.

Photography : Keith Hunter