Polka Theatre

The original 40-year-old Polka Theatre in Wimbledon was the first UK theatre venue dedicated exclusively to children. This project features a refurbishment of the theatre with an added extension to the rear of the building led by Foster Wilson Size Architects.

The aim of the refurbishment was to modify and improve systems in the existing space and to provide a new rehearsal/performance space for 1-5 year olds. Additionally, the objective was to open up the theatre to the local community by expanding the front of the building with foyers, a café and a shop.

Skelly & Couch completed the mechanical and electrical design up to tender, including ventilation, heating, cooling above and below ground drainage, fire safety and back-of-house lighting. The front-of-house lighting was completed by the consultants 18 Degrees, who also provided lighting for a specialist audio-visual theatre designed by Charcoal Blue.

The ambition for the project was to ensure the remodelled theatre will be an exemplar of sustainability. Some approaches taken to meet sustainability targets include the improvement of the building’s thermal performance through insulation, double glazing of all the windows, displacement ventilation of both theatres, low-energy lighting sources and the development of green roofs and landscaping to encourage bio-diversity.

With these changes and enhancements, the Polka Theatre will become ever more dynamic in its quest to engage young audiences, thereby exploring and extending creative possibilities to their full potential.

The Polka Theatre was on the long list of community and sustainable projects for the 2022 RIBAJ MacEwen Award in the Support Structures category.

Shortlisted for a 2023 RIBA London architecture award.