Colston Hall, Bristol, UK

Foster & Wood 1867 - Levitt Bernstein 2006
Date Built
Spinningfield Square near Deansgate
Bristol's Colston Hall is a city centre entertainment venue that has led a colourful life.  Its history is told in its architecture that today includes fragments of its complex story.  On the right in the image above, you can see the facade of the original main hall which was designed, in what was known as the Bristol Byzantine style, by Foster & Wood and built in 1867.  

That building suffered a serious fire in 1898 that inflicted significant structural damage on the auditorium.  A replacement was built on the site of the original building and it opened in 1901.  It was closed in the 1930s for remodeling and went on to survive the bombing in WWII.  However, in  1945 there was another devastating fire, caused apparently by a discarded cigarette.  The hall was rebuilt again and reopened in 1951 in time to be part of the Festival of Britain celebrations.  In fact, the Colston Hall refers to its main hall as the Royal Festival auditorium.  This auditorium can accommodate an audience of 2075.

The latest modification involved the acquisition of the building next door, on the corner of Colston Street and Pipe Lane.  This allowed the Colston Hall to commission Levitt Bernstein to build this dramatic extension of which the Hall says, "Our imposing and iconic foyer has made Colston Hall an architecturally significant and striking addition to Bristol’s skyline and befits the many fantastic performers who play here. With a café bar, roof terrace, conferencing and education facilities, plus disabled access to all floors we offer a top quality experience to all our visitors."


Apparently, this is just Phase I along the way to another complete rejuvenation of the Colston Hall.  Phase II will see the venue become a, "... world-class music and arts experiences for generations to come. We can create one of the greatest concert halls in Europe within the historic Colston Hall footprint, and complement it with the richest variety of spaces to make, present, enjoy, learn about and record the best music."  The new design shows, "the main hall with a new, larger and more flexible stage, canopy and fore-stage lift, new balconies replacing the single deeply overhanging balcony, new seats, new ceiling shape, new wall finishes and interior with a modern look and variable acoustics, and, unusually, the original Victorian windows brought back into use."

In relation to the Victorian theatre space at the Colston Hall, known as The Lantern, they add that,  "... Audiences will step from the new foyer into a modern reworking of the historic spaces of the Victorian hall. Ornate yet light, grand yet accessible, historic yet cutting-edge, it will be a place that connects the future of creative music making with the traditions of the city. The Lantern will be a striking Victorian gem for performance rehearsal and events."

Finally, " Our unique and highly atmospheric cellars were used throughout the 19th century as Bristol’s original customs warehouse. These will be converted for intimate club-type events, teaching facilities, creative workshop space and studios, enabling the first public access for a hundred years." 

The website says that so far they have raised and invested £25million in this project and need to raise a further £40million to see it to fruition.