Modular Auditorium on Innovation of the Year shortlist 23.05.23

Haworth Tompkins has been shortlisted in the Innovation of the Year category at the AJ100 Awards, for the Modular Auditorium most recently used at @sohoplace. The new theatre incorporates a modular, highly flexible auditorium, the latest evolution of a widely-applicable system developed as a research project.

Aware that auditoria are becoming increasingly complex to design from scratch by non-specialist architects, we began studying an off-site fabricated kit of parts that could be assembled in numerous permutations to achieve different capacities, seating formats and staging options, each with dense capacity, excellent sightlines and clear acoustics. We conceived a highly compact, multi-tiered modular steel structure that could be deployed around three or four sides of a central seating, standing or performing space.

Working with specialist stage engineers and manufacturers Tait Towers in the US, we co-developed a detailed 3d digital construction model for the 800-1050 seat Bridge Theatre. The process allowed us to optimise steel weights and weld strengths, significantly reducing the embodied carbon of manufacture and transport compared to conventional stock sections. Wiring runs, ventilation ducts and hard-wired infrastructure were incorporated into the factory-made units, avoiding the need for time-consuming multiple trades on site and enabling a much higher level of quality control.

The system was modularised to container lengths for ease of shipping and assembly on site, allowing international opportunities for the use of a work-tested, highly effective auditorium. It is possible to achieve stand alone, plug-and-play auditoria ranging from 400-1200 seats using the same system. The latest version for the 600 seat @sohoplace, again manufactured by Tait and this time collaborating with Charcoalblue, uses similar modular components and built in infrastructure but allows the surrounding balcony tiers also to be simply demounted via folding wall bracketry, giving even greater levels of staging flexibility.

The result, according to early reaction from critics, actors and audiences, is one of the most intimate and most theatrically potent auditoria of this scale ever built.

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