That’s according to heritage expert James Edwards from Colliers International who believes the rethink is about 250 years overdue.
The West planning and heritage specialist said: “The Bristol Old Vic is one of the brightest jewels in the city’s crown but elements of the frontage have been a blot on the streetscape for decades.
“King Street is one of the city’s most resonant visitor attractions and the drab frontage has struck a jarring chord since it was installed back in the 70s.
“This is a shame as the historic thoroughfare has always been close to the city’s heart whisking visitors back hundreds of years in just a few hundred yards.”
The ambitious £12m facelift envisaged by designers Haworth Tompkins includes a light and airy new atrium fronting onto King Street. The plans are presently being considered by Bristol City Council planners.
James Edwards said: “When it was first built back in the 1760s the theatre was hidden away behind a row of houses in order to avoid falling foul of Government censorship codes.
“The refurbishment in the early 1970s brought the front of house space forward onto King Street which was no doubt a logical thing to do but it is a pretty uninspiring piece of 70s architecture and not really consistent with the fantastic historic properties which surround it.
“The external brick colour is at odds with other properties and it appears to the passer-by as completely dead frontage.
“This is totally at odds with the rest of King Street – which is a thriving visitor attraction in its own right with a real buzz about the place day and night. The present building doesn’t even have any windows at ground level and really stifles the street scene.”
James, who has lobbied extensively to preserve Bristol’s maritime and built heritage, said the planned atrium would rejuvenate the Old Vic in much the same way as the recent refurbishments had the nearby Colston Hall.
He concluded: “The plans create an exciting new space for the venue and turns what was a broadly uninviting entrance into an exciting and contemporary meeting place bringing a much needed boost to this city institution.
“It really is great to see this most important of theatres being improved in this way.”