The Shed, 2013

a temporary wooden theatre in the city centre

This project was a temporary venue for the National Theatre on London’s South Bank, maintaining a third auditorium while the Cottesloe was closed for a year during the NT Future redevelopment. Designed and built in a year, the Shed was a collaborative process between the building designers, the National Theatre, and theatre-makers who then worked in the space, in a way that more closely resembled a theatre show or an art installation than a conventional construction project.

The simple, archetypal timber form housed an intimate, galleried auditorium made of raw steel and stained plywood, seating between 220 in thrust configuration and 320 in the round. The rough sawn timber cladding referred to the National Theatre’s iconic board-marked concrete, the modelling of the auditorium and its four natural ventilation towers complementing the bold geometries of the National Theatre itself.

The brilliant red colour covering the entire mass of a form without doors or windows boldly announced the venue against the geometric concrete forms of the NT, giving it a startling and enigmatic sculptural presence.

Foyer spaces were commandeered by enclosing existing external terraces, clad in polycarbonate sheeting on timber frames, with Persian rugs laid directly onto the brick terrace and warm red lights suspended from the external concrete soffit. The main NT building supplied dressing rooms and WCs.

Since its opening show in 2013 to its demolition in 2017 (far outliving its intended 12 month lifespan), the Shed attracted a more diverse audience to the NT and helped to re-energise the entire site as the ‘NT Future’ project to regenerate the existing 1976 theatre building unfolded around it. It is the template for a number of possible future reincarnations internationally.

“This is a building that opens your heart before you get into the auditorium. It’s a building that enables invention.” Susannah Clapp, The Observer

client

national theatre

main contractor

rise contracts

structural engineer

flint & neill

services engineer

ingleton wood

quantity surveyor

gardiner & theobald

theatre consultants

charcoalblue

acoustics

arup

picture credits

philip vile, hélène binet


Awards
2014 — Blueprint Best Sustainable Project Award: The Shed
2014 — Chicago Athenaeum International Architectural Award: The Shed
2014 — RIBA London Award: The Shed

Behind the scenes
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