King's School Canterbury – Malthouse

This exciting project provided a new drama centre for The King’s School Canterbury, a co-educational day and boarding school with whom Skelly & Couch have had a long professional relationship.

A 19th century maltings was sensitively refurbished to house a new theatre and drama centre, providing a state-of-the-art auditorium for The King’s School and local community groups. The building houses drama and dance teaching facilities and a 350-seat theatre designed to allow pupils to take a full role in both on-stage and off-stage roles. The generous foyer spaces have been carved out of the visually striking kilns where barley was historically fired. These give access to a commercial kitchen and dining rooms, a suite of science laboratories and art teaching accommodation, and circulation for the theatre.

The building accommodates offices for the drama department and changing rooms for the actors. Workshop facilities allow the school to produce sets immediately off-stage. Working closely alongside partner architects, Tim Ronalds Architects, Skelly & Couch used their extensive theatre experience to fully design in completely new services for all areas of the building. Threading services around the existing features required close collaboration with the whole design team whilst meeting the Client brief to design in the level of theatre systems more commonly found in a professional theatre environment.

Our ongoing collaboration with The King’s School has led to the development of bespoke standard specifications for use across the portfolio of other projects in which Skelly & Couch are involved, leading to a simplified maintenance strategy and a common set of design standards which continue to be used on other projects with the school.

As well as fully-designed M&E services to ensure energy-efficient operation and lower carbon emissions, the fabric and insulation of the building were upgraded significantly, resulting in a largely-reused existing building with great sustainability credentials. Secondary glazing was added to improve efficiency whilst retaining the historic windows and a careful analysis determined which parts of the building could be comfortably naturally ventilated, despite it being immediately beside both the train line into London and residential properties. Where natural ventilation was not appropriate, Skelly & Couch designed in heat recovery systems to ensure efficient use of energy in operation.

Winner of an AJ Retrofit Award 2021 (Cultural Buildings £5 million and over). The conversion of the Victorian brewery maltings into a school theatre and drama centre was described by judges as combining ‘a freshness of approach while sensitively retaining the character of the existing building’.

Winner of three RIBA South East Awards 2021: main award, Building of the Year and Conservation. The state-of-the-art theatre at the Kent independent school was hailed by RIBA as an ‘absolute exemplar of how-to repurpose an existing building in an imaginative, honest and sensitive way and is a credit to everyone involved’.

Winner of a RIBA National Award 2021.

*Winner in the 2023 Civic Trust Awards.*