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FIRST LOOK

SODA Studio completes revolving Soho theatre

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A new boulevard cabaret and theatre venue with a revolving auditorium has been created above the old entrance to the Raymond Revuebar in the heart of Soho

This first phase of the Walker’s Court development, designed by SODA Studio for Soho Estates, combines a new theatre with a restaurant and apartments.

The 5,100m² development consists of a mix of new and repurposed buildings, with the original Raymond Revuebar building overclad with a rainscreen ‘grille’ of interlocking bricks. The scheme is intended to create a revitalised centre of entertainment in Soho, with a second phase of the project to include ground-level shops and restaurants, the rebirth of the Madame JoJo’s club in the basement, and offices sitting above – including those for Soho Estates.

13 soda walkerscourt interior tomlee

13 soda walkerscourt interior tomlee

Source: Tom Lee

The centre of the scheme literally revolves around a 165-seat circular theatre space developed with theatre consultant Charcoalblue; its steel structure prefabricated off-site in Neasden, north-west London.  Both the lower ring of stall seats and the balcony are able to rotate independently in either direction, allowing complete reconfiguration of the space, which can be further transformed by a multi-configurable lighting system.

Throughout, the vaguely Art-Deco-styled spaces, rich colours – pink for the restaurant and bar and deep blue for the theatre – together with tactile materials – including extensive use of tan leather for seats and to wrap handrails – create a sensual, slightly louche internalised environment.

The project, led by Fawn James of Soho Estates, the granddaughter of the ‘King of Soho’ Paul Raymond, was envisioned in part as a tribute to his original Raymond Revuebar. As part of this, the original neon sign for the Revuebar has been remade and restored by God’s Own Junkyard and reinstalled facing down the junction with Rupert Street.

19 soda walkerscourt interior jackhobhouse

19 soda walkerscourt interior jackhobhouse

Source: Jack Hobhouse

Architect’s view

Once inside the theatre, a purpose-built lobby space leads to a double-height glazed bridge traversing Walker’s Court across to the restaurant and bar space. This has been inlaid with a lace-patterned design that recalls the net curtains of the area’s infamous brothels and is a recurring motif throughout different moments in the theatre’s interior design. The restaurant has a distinct Art Deco-inspired aesthetic, with pink panelled walls alongside brass and glass fittings. This presents a striking and modern design which also picks up on the look and feel of the surrounding Soho nightlife. A dramatic rolled-steel feature stair hangs in the public-facing Berwick Street façade, signalling the life and activity within the building and linking to the theatre space above.

22 soda walkerscourt interior jackhobhouse

22 soda walkerscourt interior jackhobhouse

Source: Jack Hobhouse

The Boulevard Theatre auditorium itself – a cylindrical space developed with theatre specialist Charcoalblue – can revolve at both stalls and balcony level to provide several configurations that adapt to a diverse programme of work, ranging from theatre, comedy and cabaret to fashion shows, films and dinners. The rotating balcony level – believed to be the first of its kind – can rotate 270 degrees to accommodate the various room changes and reimagine what contemporary theatres are capable of. This was all designed using cutting-edge VR technology that helped the project team understand the seven different permutations the space can go through when it is reconfigured at the touch of a button.

Every aspect of the auditorium has been designed for a quick and efficient turnaround, such as the newly designed Boulevard chair to movable acoustic screens. It was important that the downtime between shows is kept to an absolute minimum to ensure a full programme of activities can be squeezed into one day. The seats have been specially designed and developed for this theatre and can be easily stacked horizontally without sacrificing comfort. They are the product of a collaboration with Race Furniture, a very well-established British brand. The chairs had to function within the needs of a busy theatre while appearing timeless so that they are married to the overall aesthetic of old meets new.

Russell Potter, director, SODA Studio

12 soda walkerscourt interior tomlee

12 soda walkerscourt interior tomlee

Source: Tom Lee

Theatre consultant’s view

There is no venue of this kind or size that can respond to its users in a way that the Boulevard can. It is a testament to theatrical innovation, holistic design and close collaboration between the architect, client and operators who, at every stage of the process have had great fun together creating this valuable space within Soho.

Gary Wright, turnkey theatre principal, Charcoalblue

02 floor plan b&w

Second floor plan

Client’s view

We are delighted to be opening up the doors to the Boulevard as the first phase of Walker’s Court completes. This site has played such an important role in the local history of our ‘village’ of Soho, so we knew it was vital for us to bring back a place for performance and entertainment. The new venue will serve Soho night and day, with a broad programme of cultural events, commercial functions and private hire along with an all-day food offering. It will be a venue that offers something to everyone.

Fawn James, director, Soho Estates

Long section

Long section

Project data

Start on site October 2015
Completion date October 2019
Gross internal floor area 3,900m2
Gross (internal + external) floor area 4,500m2
Form of contract or procurement route Bespoke contract: traditional with negotiated tender
Construction cost £40 million (overall cost, including both east and west sides of development)
Architect SODA
Client Soho Estates
Structural engineer Tier Consult
M&E consultant Thornton Reynolds
Quantity surveyor Gleeds
Planning consultant Gerald Eve
Theatre consultant Charcoalblue
Theatre acoustic consultant Charcoalblue
Acoustic consultant Sandy Brown
Project manager Development Managers
Approved building inspector Approved Inspector Services
Main contractor Blenheim House Construction
CAD software used AutoCAD, SketchUp, Oculus, Unreal Engine

02 soda walkerscourt exterior jackhobhouse

02 soda walkerscourt exterior jackhobhouse

Source: Jack Hobhouse

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