The Shed, London, United Kingdom
Haworth Tompkins

The Shed is a temporary venue for the National Theatre on London’s South Bank. It provides a third auditorium while the Cottesloe is closed during “NT Future”, the regeneration project for Lasdun’s Grade II*-listed building.

It needed to be designed and constructed quickly, to cost little, to be sustainable in construction and operation, and to give the NT the opportunity to experiment with new types of work and new ways of presenting theatre. It was developed through close collaboration with the design team, NT and its theatre-makers in a way that resembled a theatre show more than a construction project.

The Shed is a development project towards future sustainable theatres. Designed to complement the grey shuttered concrete of Denys Lasdun’s building, The Shed is coated entirely in a bright red timber cladding, which covers a form without doors or windows and gives it a startling and enigmatic presence. It is built of materials that can be 100% recycled, and fitted out with re-used seating. Natural ventilation was a driving principle of the design, generating the corner towers, whose height creates a stack effect to pull air from inlets behind the seats. The Shed will be dismantled at the end of its use, after which it will either be recycled or re-erected elsewhere.

The Shed was conceived for experiment and the National Theatre is using it to develop and build new audiences. Its vibrant design, visible location and the relaxed character of both foyer and auditorium have drawn new visitors to the NT, reaching an unusually young and diverse group. This accessibility reinforces an energetic initiative by the NT to experiment with different performance times, low ticket prices, day tickets and marketing through social media, all with a view to reaching parts of the community that have not traditionally been touched by theatre.

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