Originally designed by Denys Lasdun in 1976, London's National Theatre is considered one of the finest examples of brutalist architecture in the public sector. Comprised of three auditoriums and a suite of cafes, bars, restaurants, workshop and educational facilities, the mammoth structure is located on the South Bank of the River Thames. And now, after 8 years of hard work, its $1.2 billion renovation is complete. Haworth Tompkins began the refurbishment in 2007, taking care throughout to pay respects to the existing design while modernizing the facility to blend in with what has become an increasingly popular hotspot among locals.
“Denys Lasdun’s National Theatre is one of the great buildings of the 20th century,” Haworth Tompkins said in a statement. “We set out to build on Lasdun’s vision of public openness so as to reveal it to new audiences and a changing context.”
To achieve this goal, the group create a new theatre production facility clad in aluminum fins and crumpled steel. They also re-framed the existing auditorium with a large new education center and converted an old service yard into a riverside bar and cafe. The entrance and foyers have also been upgraded to better sync with the riverside. The goal was never to change Lasdun’s work, which is clearly deeply respected by Haworth Tompkins, but to complement the existing design with thoughtful interventions that create a more seamless and contemporary visitor experience.
For example, the smallest of the three auditoriums was upgraded to include new seating and the stage equipment was also updated. With a greater capacity, the Dorfman Theatre (formerly the Cottesloe Theatre) can better serve London’s drama fans. And when the theatre is not giving performances, former workshop spaces converted into an education center provides learning space for the community.
“The National Theatre was designed to be welcoming, and openness lies at the core of NT Future,” the architects said.
“Since Lasdun’s building was completed, the public river walk has been extended, Waterloo has been regenerated, and the South Bank has become a new centre for London. NT Future embeds the National Theatre at the heart of this transformation.”
Images via Philip Vile