The Twentieth Century Society

Campaigning for outstanding buildings

Click to see full size. Glyndebourne Opera House © Martin Charles/RIBA Photographs Collection
Glyndebourne Auditorium © Morley von Sternberg
Glyndebourne Foyer © Morley von Sternberg
Glyndebourne Opera House © Martin Charles/RIBA Photographs Collection

100 Buildings 100 Years

1994: Glyndebourne Opera House, East Sussex

Status: Unlisted
Condition: Good condition
Type: Entertainment
Architect: Hopkins Architects
Location: Glynde, East Sussex, BN8 5UU

I nominate Michael and Patty Hopkins’s Glyndebourne Opera House. The chance to build a large scale purpose-designed theatre in the country in the late 20th century has been rare indeed. What I love about this building is the way that it creates a sense of occasion and excitement without pomposity.

The building posed a challenge in its close proximity to Sir George Christie’s family home, a red brick neo-Elizabethan building set in magnificent country house gardens, traditional setting for those champagne picnics in the long interval of the opera.

The Hopkins response was to build in a manner that was absolutely functional and modern, blatantly so in the structure of the flytower. At the same time there’s a sense of sympathy and poetry in their selection of traditional materials: handmade bricks, silver grey lead roofing, reclaimed pitch pine that gives the auditorium its almost magic glow.

I agree with Marcus Binney when he calls the Glyndebourne Opera House ‘not just a triumph but a great masterpiece’.

by Fiona MacCarthy

Hopkins Architects project entry

Glyndebourne: Our history

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