National Theatre, 2015

the revitalisation of the world’s biggest producing theatre

The National Theatre is one of the world’s most important producing theatres, a creative factory in the heart of London’s cultural district. It is also one of the UK’s most important Modernist buildings.

The ‘NT Future’ project is designed to equip the organisation for a new generation of theatre-making and to build on the South Bank’s growing importance as a destination for Londoners.

Developed slowly over a number of years in close collaboration with the National Theatre, English Heritage, the Twentieth Century Society, neighbours, historians, academics and other stakeholders, it is the most comprehensive regeneration of Denys Lasdun’s extraordinary masterpiece since its opening in 1976.

The resulting transformations engage the NT more closely with the river walk and the surrounding neighbourhood, regenerate the main entrance and foyers, activate the surrounding public spaces and remodel the working parts of the organisation.

The transparency of the building’s edges has been dramatically increased, and the foyers made more welcoming with upgraded bars, restaurants, bookshops, furniture and lighting. The NT’s north-east corner, formerly a service yard facing the river, has been converted to public use with the creation of a new bar and relocated cafe.

They activate a part of the river frontage that was formerly back of house, enliven the river walk, and offer a new welcome to visitors arriving from the east. Similarly, the former service road to the east of the building has been transformed into a new public square.

The renamed Dorfman theatre (formerly the Cottesloe) combines with repurposed back of house spaces to form a suite of three multi-functional studios grouped around a shared foyer, for performance, engagement, conferences and education use.

A sophisticated seating system gives the famous Dorfman auditorium more capacity in greater comfort, and allows the room to transform quickly between formats including flat floor configuration.

Leading directly off the Dorfman foyer, a new public viewing route allows the life of the updated workshops and back of house spaces to be seen, giving an insight to the scale and sophistication of the NTs’ production capacity.

The scheme’s lynch-pin is the Max Rayne Centre, a new production building to the south of the NT that houses a state-of-the-art scenic workshop, production offices, and a studio for designers, as well as departments relocated to enable change elsewhere in the building.

Clad in aluminium fins and crumpled steel mesh, the new extension is designed to complement rather than replicate the NT’s masonry language, harmonising with Sir Denys Lasdun’s austere orthogonal forms.

“...this venerable modern monument is looking better than it has done for a long time, and in some ways ever” Rowan Moore, The Observer


national theatre

main contractor

lend lease and rise contracts

project manager


structural engineer

flint & neill

services engineer

atelier ten

quantity surveyor

aecom and bristow johnson

theatre consultants


acoustic engineer

arup acoustic consulting

signage consultant

jake tilson

catering consultant

keith winton design

picture credits

philip vile, hélène binet

2016 — RICS National Award: National Theatre - NT Future
2016 — RICS London Award: National Theatre - NT Future
2016 — The Stage Theatre Building of the Year: National Theatre - NT Future

Behind the scenes
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