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Bennetts completes Shaftesbury Theatre renovation

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Bennetts Associates has completed its three-year-long project to renovate and extended London’s Shaftesbury Theatre 


The Grade II-listed theatre, which sits on the corner of Bloomsbury Way and High Holborn, has had a £5 million extension to provide upgraded facilities and new offices.

A new Cor-ten-clad flytower, which extends 10m above the roof, has also been added, replacing the building’s smaller timber-framed tower. The new flytower’s sawtooth shape adds a dramatic volume to the skyline and complements the terracotta of the building’s facade.

The building’s new office space straddles the stage on four columns and provides offices for the theatre’s administration team, which was previously located in rented space in an adjacent building.

The 1911 theatre was originally designed by Bertie Crewe and was the first steel-framed theatre in London.

James Williams, chief executive of the Shaftesbury Theatre, said:

‘While maintaining the grace and beauty of the Shaftesbury we now have a contemporary addition that enhances the facilities of the theatre, giving us the capacity to accommodate the increasing demands of productions. We are thrilled with the benefits that this brings to our customers, producers and actors visiting and working at the Shaftesbury.’

Shaftesbury Theatre by Bennetts Associates

Shaftesbury Theatre by Bennetts Associates

Architect’s view

The form of the new extension was developed in order to create a distinctive contemporary intervention on the theatre’s skyline. With the volume and height fixed by technical constraints, a serrated form was developed which would accommodate windows, smoke vents and other technical requirements within a unified geometry of angular planes.

The theatre’s Grade II listing and position within a conservation area had a major influence on the manner in which the flytower was designed. In order to be more sympathetic to the scale and grain of the neighbouring buildings, its extruded sawtooth box appears to simply float above, and only lightly touch the existing building. The proximity to King Edward Mansions and the retention of the Victorian openable rolling roof to the auditorium, the last remaining example of its kind, were critical constraints to the design and reinforced the building geometry, location and its floating aesthetic.

The self-finished weathering steel cladding oxidises from a vibrant orange colour to a warm burnt umber patina. This material was chosen to correspond to the extensive use of brick and terracotta in the existing theatre and adjacent mansion block’s facades, and creates a distinctive, contemporary addition to the streetscape. Taking the faceted treatment over the entire roof has created a strikingly bold and animated skyline, which obscured a roofscape of glazed roof lights and stage smoke venting from public view.

Shaftesbury Theatre by Bennetts Associates

Shaftesbury Theatre by Bennetts Associates

Project data

Location London
Type of project cultural
Client Shaftesbury Theatre/The Theatre of Comedy Company
Architect Bennetts Associates
Structural engineer M.J. Consulting
Services engineer E3 Consulting
Building control AIS
Principal contractor Fabrite Engineering
Project manager/cost consultant GVA Acuity
Acoustic consultant Gillieron Scott Acoustic Design
Fire engineering The Fire Surgery
Budget £5 million

Shaftesbury Theatre by Bennetts Associates

Shaftesbury Theatre by Bennetts Associates

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