National Theatre Studio, 2008

the transformation of London’s theatre research and development centre

This project involved the conversion and conservation of the National Theatre Studio, transforming the listed former production building of the next door Old Vic theatre into rehearsal and development spaces.

Designed in 1958 by Lyons, Israel and Ellis, the renowned Brutalist building had been used on a provisional basis as the National’s creative laboratory for many years previously, so the task was to upgrade and extend the technical and theatrical capability of the spaces without losing the acquired patina of use and the sense of an ad hoc environment for creative experimentation.

This required an acute sensitivity to materials, surface and light in order to reinforce the fundamental qualities of the space whilst upgrading technical capacity, expanding available workspaces and improving the artistic capabilities of the building.

The work encompassed the technically complex restoration and re-glazing of the 1950s exposed concrete structure, the major reconfiguration of the interior and the replacement of secondary fabric and technical infrastructure to achieve acoustic isolation. The new facilities include two large studios, a third education studio converted from a redundant service yard and a public archive with reading room and seminar room, along with smaller workspaces, offices, dressing rooms and a green room.

Tap to cycle the gallery

Douglas Fir plywood, painted brick and concrete, ceramic floor tiles and woodwool ceilings remain the reduced palate of internal materials. The day to day life of the building now centres around a double height circulation spine, converted from the former paint frame pit and still encrusted with decades of scenic paint.

“...this exemplary project by Haworth Tompkins of a 1950s brutalist masterpiece ensures its future as the NT’s secret ideas laboratory.” Ellis Woodman, Building Design


The Cut, London


National Theatre


RISE Contracts

Structural Engineer

Price & Myers

Services Engineer

Max Fordham

Quantity Surveyor

Davis Langdon

Theatre Consultant


Acoustic Engineer

Gillieron Scott Acoustic Design

picture credits

philip vile

2010 — RICS London Award (Shortlist): National Theatre Studio
2008 — Prime Minister's Public Building Award (Finalist): National Theatre Studio

Behind the scenes