A stage of life

Wellington’s new G.W. Annenberg Performing Arts Centre aims to educate students through self-discovery, inspiring them to ask what makes them who they are, so they may begin to take responsibility for their own development. The ethos is reflected in the design of it’s new Cultural quarter.

The design by Studio Seilern Architects, consists of a new 900-seated, 1,200 in total capacity Performance Arts Centre and a ‘cultural living room’, a space where students are inspired, and their education can flourish, both through formal and spontaneous performances.

Going in circles

Inspired by historic Greek amphitheatres, the main auditorium’s circular shape means no edges and angles: a form perpetually recessing into its landscape setting. The site is on the edge of Bracknell Forest, and adjacent to some important listed buildings.
The circular shape also helped to integrate the building within this context, acting as a hinge connecting the modern and historic campuses.

Bridging the gap with a Cultural Living Room

This ‘Cultural Living Room’ is attached to the auditorium, a ‘public square’ between the campus and the forest which connects the Performance Arts Centre with the existing theatre. This space is not limited by its four walls, rather it is a public space that is vibrant, open, filled with natural light and boasting a large window overlooking the forest, inhabited by students of the arts.

A multi-functional space

When entering the Cultural Living Room, the heart of the Cultural Quarter, students will be met with spontaneous exhibitions, music and dance performances and rehearsals or social gatherings -  all set against an inspiring forest backdrop. So this Cultural Living Room becomes a space for artistic happenings, as well as a social hub for the creative community of Wellington College.

Designed with high-quality acoustics and efficient circulation in mind, this Performance Arts Centre is the venue for students to showcase their creative talents in a formal setting. The circular shape created a collegiate atmosphere, where everyone sees each other and allowed a closer proximity to the performance than a shoebox auditorium typically would. 

Emerging from the woods

By situating the Cultural Quarter of the college between a dense forest and beautiful historic Victorian buildings, approaching students are met with a building emerging from the surrounding woods. The main auditorium is clad in stained timber, sitting softly alongside the dark bark vernacular textures of the forest. Despite its capacity, the scale of the building and its careful setting into the landscape does not overwhelm students and visitors.