(K. Brent Tomer),
GOING to the theatre can feel like an exercise in discomfort. From half-broken seats and bad sightlines to cramped foyers, many of Britain’s historic venues are in urgent need of an upgrade. But how do you renovate a theatre to accommodate changing tastes and requirements while retaining the building’s soul and identity? In an age of commercial pressures—36 theatres were on the brink of closure in 2016 according to the Theatres Trust, a preservation group—do theatres need to become more flexible and lean in order to survive?
Steve Tompkins, co-founder of Haworth Tompkins, an architecture firm, has been grappling with these questions for more than 20 years. He considers Edwardian and Victorian theatre buildings to be important institutions, but argues that “you can’t be sentimental about them. If you extrapolate and work with their strengths you can make them exciting, vivid and current again.”
The firm used this approach when remodelling the Royal Court in London, a Victorian playhouse dating back to 1888. They stripped and reseated the main auditorium to create better sightlines, rebuilt the studio theatre to give it more headroom and…Continue reading