Theatre buildings scoop top architects’ prizes

Natalie Woolman

Theatre buildings such as the Garsington Opera Pavilion and the Lyric in Belfast have been recognised by the Royal Institute of British Architects in its 2012 awards.

RIBA gongs were also won by the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, the Royal Opera House’s production workshop in Thurrock, Newcastle’s Theatre Royal, the new Marlowe Theatre in Canterbury and the G-Live Performing Arts Centre in Guildford.

Garsington Opera staged its festival on Wormsley Estate for the first time last year, after more than 20 years at Garsington Manor. The move meant that a new performance space had to be designed, and architect Snell Associates created a Japanese-style pavilion that could be erected for the festival and then dismantled at the end of the season.

RIBA’s citation states: “Garsington’s design concept is based on a demountable 600-seat ‘temporary structure’ – it should come down every autumn – but the landowner likes it so much he wants to keep it up after the first season.”

The institute also praised Keith Williams Architects, the firm that designed the Marlowe Theatre, for achieving “the near impossible” by fitting a new “landmark” theatre building into Canterbury’s streets. Meanwhile, it described the Royal Opera House’s new production workshop as “a public building as much as it is a private one”.

Speaking about the Marlowe Theatre’s prize, local councillor Darren Ellis said: “We knew when the design was finalised it would be a building that made a real statement and would attract attention in the architecture world. Awards like this are great publicity for the Marlowe Theatre, particularly when given by an organisation as respected as RIBA.”

The architects’ practices behind the Lyric in Belfast, the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama and Garsington Opera Pavilion will now compete for the UK’s most prestigious architecture award, the RIBA Stirling prize, to be announced in October.

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