The Almeida Theatre, searching for a temporary venue in which to stage large scale productions of Richard II and Coriolanus, negotiated a one year lease on a former power station from the developer and commissioned Haworth Tompkins to convert the building for the lowest possible cost. The great turbine hall was returned to its original volume by the demolition of an intermediate floor, creating a single space over 25m high. Basic soundproofing was installed and a simple scaffold seating system developed to create a large courtyard auditorium on three levels.
“Haworth Tompkins intelligence and insight were very evident. They worked excellently and sensitively with everyone to create two performing spaces and a wonderful foyer. The few architectural 'moves' that were made were bold, low-cost and highly expressive: amongst them, a glowing poly-carbonate entrance; roof and walls clad with grass as the solution to sound and heat insulation.”
Nick Starr, then Executive Director, Almeida Theatre
The remainder of the building was treated almost entirely as 'found' and formed the various bars and foyers. Scaffold staircases, ramps and simple cut openings were inserted to deal with the complex fire escape and circulation requirements for an audience of 900. Maintaining the sense of discovery and risk one feels on first entering a derelict building was an important part of the experience.
The result was a spectacular but surprisingly intimate auditorium, in which the old building was allowed to become an integral and essential part of the performances. Having played to full houses for every performance throughout the summer of 2000, the venue closed at the end of the season and has now been demolished as planned.
Almeida Temporary Theatre
Address: Gainsborough Studio, Shoreditch, London
Completion Date: March 2000
Construction Cost: £750,000
Client: The Almeida Theatre
Project Manager: Citex Project Delivery
Contractor: TP Construction
Structural Engineer: Alan Conisbee Associates
Service Engineer: Max Fordham LLP
Acoustic Engineer: Paul Gillieron Acoustic Design