The Bridge Theatre, London

Designed by: Haworth Tompkins
For client: London Theatre Company Floor area: 3685.00 M² Year of completion: 2017
Submitted for: Entertainment Venue of the Year

Haworth Tompkins The Bridge Interior3
© Philip Vile

About the Project

The Bridge, London’s first new commercial theatre of scale to be built for 40 years, occupies an extraordinary site between City Hall and Tower Bridge, its lobby looking out over the river to the Tower of London. In a conscious move away from London’s traditional West End theatre district, the Bridge has been designed to provide new levels of adaptability and theatrical possibility compared with the historic proscenium houses that comprise most of London’s non-subsidised venues. The theatre forms part of the ground floor frontage of a new residential development, activating the public realm and providing a catalyst for neighbouring restaurants and cafes.

The aim of the Bridge Theatre was to make a large capacity auditorium, fitting within the spatial constraints of the building and providing the quality of experience, intimacy and stage flexibility typical of a lower capacity auditorium. The riverside location was extraordinary but the 10m total headroom of the space was not overly generous, demanding a compressed structural design for increased theatrical density and intensity.

This innovative auditorium is supported by the high, brightly daylit timber-lined foyer space, looking directly over the panorama of London’s north bank, which has been designed to be both intimate and generous; whether absorbing 1100 audience members or welcoming 25 morning coffee drinkers. Served by a single long bar, the foyer functions as a friendly public congregation space.

What’s unique about it

The auditorium is a new approach; designed in collaboration with London Theatre Company and stage engineering manufacturers Tait, the room was made and tested offsite before being erected as finished components in the building shell. We were able to digitally ‘sit’ in each seat in all formats, to verify the quality of the sightlines and set up the various ticket pricing bands. We were also able to ‘stand’ on stage to experience an actor’s relationship with the audience and identify the points of command to inform the various stage geometry options.

The finalised model was sent to computerised steel cutting and welding plant for fabrication. The team built a full-sized prototype in a hanger in Norfolk, allowing us to experience the relationship of actor and audience, tweak the ergonomics of steps, seating and handrails, and to rehearse the site erection methodology. The auditorium was fabricated in lorry-sized sections allowing easy transport and erection. The stalls pit and stage area consist of a bespoke, innovative modular staging system to allow quick manual adaptation for different formats.

The auditorium has been very well received by actors, audience and theatre critics for its first, end-on production. The next production will be an in-the-round promenade format and the third will be thrust stage. We hope this will be the first of a number of dense, adaptable modular auditoria around the world.

Haworth Tompkins The Bridge Interior2
© Philip Vile

Served by a single long bar and lit by 500 bespoke copper light fittings (designed by Haworth Tompkins) the foyer functions as a friendly public congregation space throughout the day and evening, welcoming community engagement.

Haworth Tompkins The Bridge Auditorium2
© Philip Vile
Haworth Tompkins The Bridge Auditorium1
© Philip Vile
Haworth Tompkins The Bridge Detail3
© Philip Vile

For this auditorium we chose a simple but warm material palate of dark brown/black painted steel for the main auditorium structure, natural oak slats for the tier fronts, black recycled rubber flooring and a rich burnt orange woollen cloth and tan leather

Haworth Tompkins The Bridge Detail2
© Philip Vile
Haworth Tompkins The Bridge Detail1
© Philip Vile
Haworth Tompkins The Bridge Interior4
© Philip Vile
Haworth Tompkins The Bridge Interior1
© Philip Vile

The high, brightly daylit timber-lined foyer space, looking directly over the panorama of London’s north bank, has been designed to be both intimate and generous, whether absorbing 1100 audience members or welcoming 25 morning coffee drinkers.

Haworth Tompkins The Bridge Exterior1
© Philip Vile

The Bridge occupies an extraordinary site between City Hall and Tower Bridge, its lobby looking out over the river to the Tower of London.

Location of project:
Credits:
Haworth Tompkins

London Theatre Company

Gilleron Scott Acoustic Design

Bristow Johnson & Partners

Momentum Engineering

Plann Limited

Rise Contracts Limited

Skelly & Couch Ltd

Trenton Fire Limited

Tait Stage Technologies

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