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Shaftesbury Theatre

​Shaftesbury Theatre

by Bennetts Associates


Client The Theatre of Comedy Company

Awards RIBA London Award 2018 and RIBA National Award 2018

© Peter Cook

This powerfully dramatic addition to the skyline of London's West End is a feat of architectural and engineering and prowess. To remain competitive in theatreland the Grade II listed Edwardian theatre needed a retrofit to extend its performing capabilities. This was achieved by adding a new fly tower, to increase flying capacity from 12 to 35 tons, with new offices and plant rooms.

The work entailed erecting a new structure interlaced within the existing building structure, to carry the exceptional new load at the top of the building. Piles were driven 28 metres down, incidentally near to Crossrail lines and an underground river; columns were threaded through the existing structure; and steels craned and spliced into place, while the 1,400 seater theatre remained fully operational and with residential neighbours next door, sharing party walls.

The result of these efforts is the creation of a terrific new facility for theatrical performance. Historic features, have been retained, such as the capacity to open the auditorium roof. This used to be relatively common in the West End but is now only possible in the Shaftesbury Theatre.

The new fly tower at roof level, is encircled by rudimentary staff offices, which have a strong ambience of back-of-house. They have been arranged to form a stepped profile, to avoid direct sunlight and overheating; and to break down the bulk of the new extension, when viewed from outside (both street level and above).

The effect when viewed from afar is a sculpted, stepped, corten steel structure which when lit at night hovers like solid illuminated banners over the roof of the theatre.

Day and night the form and colour resonate strongly with the red brick and faience of the original building and its neighbours. Though clearly contemporary, it sits very comfortably in its setting.

The effect of the works has been to reduce the theatre's operational costs. The existing boiler plant in the basement was replaced with a new roof mounted packaged boiler plant room with high efficiency condensing boilers.

These serve the whole theatre and have reduced energy and NOx emissions. Air source heat pumps provide all the heating and cooling required with offices naturally ventilated.

The briefing and design development were carried out by the design team working directly with the client. The success of this complicated project is a reflection of the excellent relationship between the client and architect, who are continuing their creative working by developing together the next phase of improvements at the Shaftesbury Theatre.


Internal area 342 m²

Contractor Fabrite Engineering Ltd

Structural Engineers M.J. Consulting Engineers

Environmental / M&E Engineers E3 Consulting Engineers

Quantity Surveyor / Cost Consultant GVA Acuity

Project Management GVA Acuity

Acoustic Engineers Gillieron Scott

Fire Engineer The Fire Surgery

Building Control Approved Inspector Services Limited (AIS)

Cladding Consultant Facades and Materials Design Consultants (FMDC)

CDM Client Adviser; Cleaning & Maintenance ORSA Projects Limited

© Peter Cook
© Peter Cook
© Peter Cook
© Peter Cook
© Peter Cook
© Peter Cook
© Peter Cook
© Peter Cook
© Peter Cook
© Bennetts Associates
© Bennetts Associates
© Bennetts Associates
© Bennetts Associates
© Bennetts Associates
© Bennetts Associates
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