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The Hexagon


The Hexagon was designed in 1977 by Robert Matthew, Johnson-Marshall & Partners, a major post-war firm responsible for a number of important buildings including the Grade I-listed Royal Festival Hall. The Hexagon was planned to bridge the gap in provision left as a result of the demolition of the Palace Theatre.

The name itself describes the shape of the exterior of the building, and is reflected also in the form of the auditorium. Of particular architectural significance is the Hexagon's elongated hexagonal plan shape, with an independent clear-span roof structure of steel, precast and in-situ reinforced concrete. It was praised at the time because of its radical appearance. The auditorium has five cantilevered balconies on three sides with three sides of seating behind the stage. Technically, it was one of the first examples in the country of assisted resonance designed into a building to provide day-to-day variation of the acoustics. The foyers are exceptionally generous, and the building externally is distinctive and totally unlike any other theatre in Britain. Built next door to the hexagonal Reading Council Offices the Hexagon has a grey panelled roof supported by raking piers with open architectural features behind.

When the Hexagon first opened its doors it was intended to provide a venue for the performing arts, exhibitions and conferences, sporting and social functions as well as film. It can readily be converted from concert hall to proscenium theatre form. The width of the proscenium is flexible (10.5m, 14m or 17.5m); the platform consists of a single lift of 167sq m, which can be raised to a maximum of 1m or lowered to floor level. Seating capacity can be varied to suit the production or event. The auditorium is pleasing in its uncluttered geometry of juxtaposed planes and segmented blocks of tiered seating. There are 686 permanent balcony seats and 218 retractable seats. Portable seats can also be used on the flat floor for some purposes. The 284 choir stalls have limited use.

Like all multi-purpose halls the Hexagon has limitations as a theatre. It is, and always will be, essentially a concert hall and the form of the auditorium inevitably means that sightlines are poor from some seats. However, the Hexagon does provide Reading and the surrounding communities with a venue which has imaginative programming and is successful as a small multi-purpose hall with great flexibility. The Hexagon was threatened with demolition as part of the expansion of Broad Street Mall, and there was a deal with developers whereby a new theatre would be constructed at Station Hill. A more sustainable solution would be retaining the Hexagon as a concert venue with a new theatre alongside or on the Station Hill site.

Built / Converted
Dates of use
  • 1977 : continuing
Current state
Current use
Theatre (touring theatre & concert hall)
Queens Walk, Reading, Berkshire, RG1 7UA, England
Further details
Other names
  • Owner/Management: Reading Borough Council
  • 1977 Use: continuing
  • 1977 Design/Construction: Johnson-Marshall & Partners
    Robert Matthew
    - Architect
  • Capacity
    514-1868, depending on format
  • Listing
    Not listed
Stage type
Flat, variable inc proscenium and round
Building dimensions: -
Stage dimensions: variable
Proscenium width: 10.5-17m x 9.25m high
Height to grid: 10m, 19 hemp lines
Inside proscenium: -
Orchestra pit: -