Key theatre design trends: Renovating existing theatres
One of the more established trends in theatre design is reimagining and revitalising existing theatrical buildings, bringing them up to contemporary technical and comfort standards and adding flexibility for their artists.
“I think we’ll soon see a lot more instances of re-using existing theatre stock, not just refurbishing them but dynamically adapting them to meet what artists now require,” says Andy. “I was at a conference recently, and a couple of theatre directors said: ‘Why are we building new theatres? We just don’t need them, we’d rather be putting on plays in warehouses now.’ The demand for renovation and adaptive use projects is growing, particularly as it’s a cheaper and more environmentally sustainable way of doing things."
“The demand for renovation and adaptive use projects is growing, particularly as it’s a cheaper and more environmentally sustainable way of doing things.”
Managing Partner Andy Hayles
The Cottesloe Theatre at the National Theatre was renovated and reborn as the Dorfman Theatre. Image: Philip Vile.
“One big issue is how to get more intensive use out of the auditorium. Aside from shows and the odd rehearsal, they’re wasted spaces for so much of the daytime. The National in London was quick to spot this, and we helped them adapt the auditorium of their Dorfman Theatre – creating a system where you can fold seats into the floor and elevate the rows on elevators – to create a more flexible space that can host educational classes and workshops in the daytime on a flat floor, as well as host shows at night with raked seats."
“Theatres have lots of new competition. If they don’t update their facilities, which can be more than a hundred years old, they may lose.”
An aerial view of Navy Pier, home to the Chicago Shakespeare Theater. Image: Leandro Neumann Ciuffo.
Case study: The Yard at Chicago Shakespeare Theatre
The Yard at Chicago Shakespeare Theater reuses a portion of the former outdoor venue, the Skyline Stage, on the city’s iconic Navy Pier. The auditorium can be reconfigured from a proscenium house, to thrust, traverse and in-the-round configurations. This radical new space enables the company to stage its own large-scale musicals, spectacles, present more touring work, and transfer its own productions from its two existing venues.