All News

Key theatre design trends: Flexibility in the theatre

25/07/18

Continuing our series on key theatre design trends following 2017’s World Architecture Festival celebrating ‘Performance’, this week we’re discussing flexibility in theatre. Originally appearing in an interview with CLADGlobal, here Managing Partner Andy discusses how spaces for performance and presentation are embracing flexibility in staging to give the greatest scope to its Directors and Designers.

“Directors and designers love flexibility, and it’s something we as theatre building designers have to think ever more about these days," remarks Managing Partner Andy Hayles. "But even if we present a manual of nine different pre-approved, safety certified configurations they can use, the creative team often invent a tenth we haven’t come up with! Automation has its place – putting staging and seats on lifts and so on – especially where labour costs are high, but where we can we prefer a ‘back to basics’ approach because it’s easier to maintain and flexibility can actually be improved by minimising heavy machinery.”

“Even if we present a manual of nine different pre-approved, safety certified configurations they can use, the creative team often invent a tenth we haven’t come up with!”

Managing Partner Andy Hayles

The various formations of the seating towers at The Yard at Chicago Shakespeare Theater

Flexibility is at the heart of the plans for Hamilton, New Zealand's Waikato Regional Theatre. Render: JASMAX

The flexible theatre at The North Wall arts centre at St. Edward's School in Oxford. Image: Philip Vile

“The Schaubuenhe in Berlin, refurbished in the 70s, is a cautionary example of what can go wrong with too much machinery. It was filled with elevators, winches and acoustic doors with three separate theatres that could be merged. But when you have so much machinery, you create other constraints. If you need to lift the stage diagonally, you have to build a stage on top of the lifts, and you can’t cut a hole in the floor for a trap door, because there’s a lift in the way blocking the actor.”

“For the Perelman Performing Arts Center in New York, we’ve tried to learn from our forebears. So although we need to achieve 11 configurations and merge several spaces, apart from one area of the largest theatre we’ve used low-tech rostra, because it’s easy to assemble and move and lets you do almost everything you could need.”

Case study: The Yard at Chicago Shakespeare Theatre

A new creative centrepiece of the New York theatre scene will be built as the next addition to the World Trade Center site. The Ronald O. Perelman Center for the Performing Arts at the World Trade Center will provide much-needed artistic space to the downtown community and will premiere works of theatre, dance, music, and opera, including productions that span multiple disciplines.

This will be a highly adaptable venue with unprecedented digital connectivity. Each space will function brilliantly as a standalone theatre, and can also be combined with adjacent theatre and interstitial spaces to create a total of 11 different possible configurations, each with limitless opportunity for seating arrangements ranging from 99 to 1200 seats.

Read the full interview with Andy on CLADGlobal.

Andy Hayles

Chat to Andy about flexible theatre design.

+44 (0)20 7928 0000

Andy Hayles

Chat to Andy about flexible theatre design.

Contact Andy

+44 (0)20 7928 0000