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Theatre for a year
11/26/2013

It looks a little as though a relative of Battersea Power Station has been stranded on the South Bank of London’s River Thames. The gleaming red cube is located next to the National Theatre. The complete absence of doors and windows makes the dramatic chimneys on the corners all the more prominent. The theatre’s smallest hall, the “Cottesloe” stage, is closed for a year which is why the architects at Haworth Tompkins have created a temporary space for the intervening period. Here, the emphasis has been on recyclable materials and energy efficiency. As part of this, Troldtekt acoustic panels are made of cement and wood, LED luminaires lower energy consumption and the hall is efficiently ventilated. This explains the strange towers, which function like chimneys to create the necessary updraft.

“The coarse red wood panelling is our response to the board-marked concrete of the National Theatre, a masterpiece of brutalism that is either loved or hated,” is how Haworth Tompkins explain their design. The signal red stands for the theatre’s new focus as it seeks to make a name for itself as a younger, more experimental stage. This is also highlighted by the flexible, octagonal space, which can be swiftly converted for different types of performance. Based on ideas by theatre planners Charcoalblue, the result is an intimate stage space for an audience of 225 that, given their proximity to the spectators, is a real challenge for performers. Arup Acoustic ensured the acoustics are perfect by using 1,100 square meters of ultra-fine Troldtekt acoustic panels together with 100% PEFC-certified panels painted black in the main auditorium. A nice touch of continuity is expressed by using the chairs from the original Cottesloe theatre in this temporary space.

The National Theatre’s smallest auditorium, known as The Shed, is now housed in a temporary space on the South Bank of the River Thames. Photo: © Phillip Vile
The National Theatre’s smallest auditorium, known as The Shed, is now housed in a temporary space on the South Bank of the River Thames. Photo: © Phillip Vile
With its four towers, the theatre is reminiscent of Battersea Power Station. Photo: © Phillip Vile
The coarse wood panels complement the fair-faced concrete used for the National Theatre. Photo: © Phillip Vile
The unusual, octagonal layout means that actors and audience are never far apart. Photo: © Phillip Vile
The striking towers function as natural ventilators for the auditorium. Photo: © Phillip Vile
Troldtekt acoustic panels ensure that the acoustics inside the Shed is just right. Photo: © Phillip Vile
Sustainability was a special concern for the architects at Haworth Tompkins, especially when choosing the right materials, such as the Troldtekt acoustic panels. Photo: © Phillip Vile

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