The participating students were offered the opportunity to gain insight and feedback from the world of practice, by inviting London-based architect Adrian Hill from ‘Hill Patru Architects’ to join as an external guest critic with experience in working with listed buildings in the UK. Architect Hill´s stay was funded by BritInn. The subject of the studio was the re-use of a Grade I listed building, that happens to be the oldest working theatre in the United Kingdom, St. George’s Guildhall in King’s Lynn, Norfolk. The Guildhall of St George in Kings Lynn is a Grade I listed building, dating from 1428. It has, remarkably, worked as a performance venue almost continuously ever since. It is also the only theatre that can claim with solid evidence that William Shakespeare has performed in it as an actor, back in 1593 when the London venues were closed by the plague. Its success as a playhouse peaked in the 1770’, but in the 19th century the Guidhall has suffered a decline, being used as warehouse and then as stage set wokshop with an Arts Centre being inaugurated on site in 1951 by the queen mother. With the closing of the Arts Centre in 2016 St’George’s guildhall now faces an uncertain future. The Shakespeare Guildhall Trust has formed and a creative director, Tim FitzHigham has been appointed in 2022, with a mission to draft a vision for the site of the back of its unique heritage and secure funding for redevelopment.
Students had the opportunity to gain insight from practice which benefited their understanding of the UK planning system as well as the listed building legislation. Adrian Hill was familiar with both the challenges raised by the studio brief and the particularities of the site which enabled him to quickly engage in the discussion and bring new perspectives that had previously been missed. Being an outsider to the studio has offered the students the chance of the exercise in producing a first impression and gauge the reactions of an expert. Students acknowledged and expressed their appreciation for Adrian Hill’s contribution to the design studio and their work.
The collaboration with Adrian Hill was very fruitful for students, lecturers and PhD students of the institute, who had the opportunity to exchange views with him, as an expert from practice, on topics related to preservation of the built heritage in Europe and the UK.
This collaboration is hopefully the first in a series of future collaborations between the University of Innsbruck’s Faculty of Architecture and experts from the field of architecture in the United Kingdom.