National Theatre - London

2016.10.07

Photography: Rory Gardiner

Location:
South Bank, London
Architect: Denys Lasdun
Architect NT Future: Haworth Tompkins
Construction: 1963-1976
NT Future completed: 2015


National Theatre is one of the most well known Brutalist buildings, although some do not consider it to be Brutalist at all. When the theater opened in 1976 after 13 years of construction Brutalism had already fallen out of fashion and the building received harsh criticism for its massive gray slabs of concrete. However with time the building has
become one of the most appreciated buildings in London.

When Lasdun designed the National Theatre he wanted to open it up to the city and for the building to become an extension of the urban space. For sidewalks, bridges, squares and streets to extend into the building and for the building to reach out with its terraces and balconies, inviting people to spontaneously interact with the building and its activities. In a way he wanted to democratize the theater as a building but the concept also reflects his general view on architecture as "spaces for people to interact".

Rather than looking at e. g. a school as a collection of functions he looked at it as possibilities for people to interact: student to teacher, students to student or teacher to teacher.

At the time the theater was build most of the spaces around the theater were bomb sites from WWII. This limited the possibilities for the building to connect to the rest of the city. With time the sites around the building were rebuilt and now lacked natural connections to the building. In 2007 a project named NT Future was initiated with the ambition to refurbish the building at the same time as adapting it to the needs of the 21st century and re-connecting it to its surroundings. The architects appointed to run the project was Haworth Tompkins. In 2015 the National Theater re-opened and the restoration has received numerous awards.