Five crowd-pleasing theatre projects

Occurring on 23 April each year, Shakespeare Day honours the playwright that everyone has, at the very least, “done” at school. In the spirit of Bard appreciation, here are five theatre projects that benefited from Buro Happold’s tour de force performance.

1. Royal Shakespeare Theatre

Stratford-upon-Avon, UK

This major theatre renovation project for the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) created an auditorium that holds 1,040+ seats. The audience experience is intensified by the addition of a thrust stage, which extends into the crowd to bring those soliloquies within whispering distance for all. Our team’s contribution included work on a new basement, ventilation and fire engineering.

Shakespeare fact! Didst thou know? The sum total of Shakespeare’s creative output is unclear – and a continuing source of vigorous academic debate – but it is generally agreed that he definitely wrote at least 37 plays.

Applying elegant and intelligent engineering strategies to redefine the historic Royal Shakespeare Theatre, and realise the vision for a sustainable future. Image: Buro Happold

2. The Egg Theatre

Bath, UK

The Theatre Royal wanted to transform a Grade II listed building into a performance space just for children, young people and their families. A new, egg-shaped auditorium required careful construction within existing external walls. Buro Happold devised an innovative structural solution and provided multidisciplinary support to meet a tight deadline, even when the mechanical and electrical contractor went bust with six weeks to go.

Shakespeare fact! Didst thou know? Containing over 4,000 lines, Hamlet is Shakespeare’s longest play. The titular, angst-ridden Dane has been brought to life by many notable actors, including Daniel Day Lewis, Christopher Walken and – for a surprisingly acceptable 1990 film – Mel Gibson.

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3. Victoria Palace Theatre

London, UK

Buro Happold overcame three primary challenges in this restoration project: maximise the fly tower – a hoist for equipment and people – and expand the shallow stage design; upgrade facilities and services to accommodate modern technology; and renovate the heating, ventilation and cooling systems. The theatre re-opened with a well-received production of Hamilton, a hip-hop musical about the first US Secretary of the Treasury.

Shakespeare fact! Didst thou know? Shakespeare’s plays popularised dozens of everyday phrases such as “the world is your oyster” (The Merry Wives of Windsor), “wild goose chase” (Romeo and Juliet) and “break the ice” (The Taming of the Shrew).

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Before the heating system was refurbished, auditorium temperatures could vary between 19°C – 28°C, depending on where you were sitting. Image: Buro Happold

4. The Swan Wing

Stratford-upon-Avon, UK

The RSC’s Swan Wing served as the entranceway to the original Shakespeare Memorial Theatre, which burnt down in 1926. Now featuring a refreshment area along with exhibition space, the structure was refurbished with help from Buro Happold. Our building services engineering expertise improved temperature levels and energy efficiency without compromising period features.

Shakespeare fact! Didst thou know? Shakespeare died suddenly of unknown causes on 23 April 1616. He was 52, which was a good innings given that average life expectancy at the time was 35 years.

5. Prince Edward Theatre

London, UK

As part of infrastructure work to improve audience comfort, Buro Happold assessed the air conditioning and heating systems of this West End mainstay. Our feasibility study recommended a new, centrally controlled building management system to improve reliability and user-friendliness while replacing air plant for reasons of efficiency and noise reduction. We were subsequently engaged to execute the full design and provide site supervision.

Shakespeare fact! Didst thou know? In his will, Shakespeare left his wife, Anne, “my second-best bed”.

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