The Almeida Theatre required a temporary home while their base in Islington was being redeveloped. The challenge was to create a convivial dramatic space on an extremely tight budget. A derelict bus depot, scheduled for demolition, was leased for two years and converted to provide an auditorium along with full front and back of house facilities. A long panel of back-lit yellow plastic sheet marked the entrance to the theatre down a narrow alleyway.
“Almeida Kings Cross is punk or guttersnipe architecture pretty much at its best.”
Jonathan Glancey, Guardian
Inside the theatre, the industrial interiors were left raw, with stairs, bar and WC facilities dropped into the space to modify their proportions and establish a sense of arrival. The main auditorium exploited a wide, low space to create an unusual proscenium stage, used to great effect by stage designers and directors. The other space was more conventional, allowing easy re-configuration for each show.
To achieve the necessary sound insulation, the roof and gables of the building were turfed in Sedum, a hardy cactus-like plant. The resulting pitched roof garden, full of wild flowers in the centre of a busy urban block, has become a local landmark. From discovering the building to opening night, the entire project was completed in 17 weeks.
Almeida Temporary Theatre
Address: Kings Cross, London
Completion Date: March 2001
Construction Cost: £850,000
Client: The Almeida Theatre
Contractor: Ashe Construction
Structural Engineer: Alan Conisbee Associates
Service Engineer: Max Fordham LLP
Acoustic Engineer: Paul Gillieron Acoustic Design
Landscape Architect: Marieclarke Landscape & Garden Design
Evening Standard Awards : Most promising Newcomer (Shortlist)
Time Out Live Awards : Most Inspiring Venue