Parabola Arts Centre was opened by Sir Richard Eyre on the 3rd October 2009. PAC is owned by Cheltenham Ladies' College and is used by the school for performances, exhibitions and events.
PAC was built by Foster Wilson Architects. Their brief was demanding and wide-ranging: to be a creative learning environment for the students of the Cheltenham Ladies’ College, to develop a cutting edge arts space, to offer spaces for hire to the local community and to meet the need for a creative hub in Cheltenham. All this inside a Grade II* listed building on a constricted site.
The original, listed Bayshill House was transformed into a gallery, bar and foyer area. The villa also houses all the rehearsal spaces, offices, video editing suite, dance studio and library. This means that the regular activity of the building –the teaching, rehearsing and the daily work of the theatre staff, takes place in the light, beautifully restored listed building.
The new-build 325-seat theatre sits behind the villa. The auditorium is beautifully proportioned, resonant and atmospheric. Foster Wilson chose to work with natural materials: wood, brick, local limestone, brushed concrete and wool. The shape and surfaces are an update on the perfectly formed Georgian theatres: intimate, playful, tactile. The theatre is also naturally ventilated and has a ‘B’ energy rating.