The Stage Awards 2019 shortlist: Theatre building of the year
Theatre venues or any physical structure or space hosting theatrical performance are eligible for this award. The building or space must have launched (or relaunched) within the past 12 months. Judged on criteria including (but not limited to) innovation, design, facilities.
Award sponsored by TAIT
Battersea Arts Centre, London
After the devastating fire that engulfed the south London venue’s Grand Hall in 2015, it has been restored to breathtaking effect. This year marked the completion of a 12-year project to overhaul the Grade II*-listed building, which means the entire site is now used for creative and community activity.
Masterminded by architecture firm Haworth Tompkins, the Grand Hall reopened this summer and has been re-imagined as a 21st-century performance space. It can now host bigger productions and community events, as well as weddings, gigs and festivals.
The brick shell that survived the fire was stabilised, and the architects left the scarred walls on display, a nod to the building’s ‘ghosts’. They added a timber lattice inspired by the decorative pattern of the original plaster vault not just for aesthetic reasons, but because it offers greater technical and acoustic possibilities. Demountable audience seating and promenade galleries now connect to the balcony and can be configured, the bar has been refurbished and the Lower Hall has been redesigned as a space for local businesses, start-ups, artists and charities.
BAC’s long collaboration with Haworth Tompkins means the building has been transformed over a number of years, but 2018 has been the time to celebrate. From the despair of the fire, the reconstruction of the great old municipal building marked a significant moment of evolution and change; the phoenix well and truly rose from the flames.
Bristol Old Vic
This year marked the completion of Bristol Old Vic’s redevelopment project, the design of which harks back to the roots of England’s oldest continuously running theatre, while creating a 21st-century venue. The redevelopment, again led by Haworth Tompkins, was designed to put the theatre at the heart of the city’s public and cultural life.
The new timber and glass-fronted foyer reveals the original 1766 auditorium facade to the street for the first time in centuries. Huge sun-shading shutters incorporate the text of David Garrick’s inaugural address and a poem by former Bristol city poet Miles Chambers. The inside of the venue has been transformed. The Georgian Coopers’ Hall was restored as a public assembly room, the old barrel vaults house a new Weston Studio theatre and the addition of mezzanine galleries, staircases and viewing platforms provide flexible spaces for productions, events, experimental theatre and city-wide participation.
This marked the second stage of a 10-year, £26 million programme to overhaul the historical site completely.
When it first opened, Bristol Old Vic was a space where people from every walk of life congregated, artistic director Tom Morris says, but over the years it became increasingly hidden from public view. This project has changed all that.
Royal Opera House, London
The Royal Opera House’s recent mission has been to open up its building and become more accessible, while respecting its heritage and location. After three years of works, led by architect Stanton Williams, it relaunched in September with a remodelling that did just that. The construction cost of overhauling the Grade I-listed building was £50.7 million, and needed 500 site contractors and 120 sub-contractors.
The redesigned Bow Street entrance boasts a glazed pavilion on the ground floor, which allows passers-by to see in, and offers a warmer welcome than before. The Covent Garden piazza entrance has also been improved as has the flow into the foyer which now runs to a new lower ground floor and an all-new Linbury Theatre.
The new Linbury was at the heart of the redevelopment project. It has become a state-of-the-art 400-seat venue to showcase world premieres, co-productions and collaborations as well as a creative base for the Royal Opera and Royal Ballet companies. Elsewhere, the amphitheatre foyer and terrace has been refurbished.
Already there has been an increased flow of people into the building during the day, helped by the new cafe and retail space, as the way people engage with Covent Garden’s art forms and buildings evolves. Impressively, the ROH carried out the works to its front of house while keeping the building in use throughout.