Wednesday, 02 December 2020

S&C focus on theatre - December 2020

As theatres in England reopen in tier one and two areas this week, albeit with capacity restrictions, Skelly & Couch shines a spotlight on two outstanding theatre projects: the much-loved community hub and newly-crowned Overall Winner of the New London Awards 2020, Battersea Arts Centre (BAC), and the new-build Bridge Theatre.

Battersea Arts Centre image © Fred Howarth

The shows will go on! #BackOnStage 

Engineering your theatre environment

Theatre double act

Flexibility is the watchword on both projects, which are among nine S&C theatre collaborations with Stirling Prize-winning practice Haworth Tompkins.

Innovative environmental engineering solutions for both BAC and the Bridge were developed in close partnership with our clients and design team colleagues from the outset. These collaborations are a validation of our sustainable values and distinctive multidisciplinary approach, which deliver value and expertise across the entire spectrum of M&E environmental disciplines and industry sectors.

Longest-running partnership

This week Battersea Arts Centre has been named Overall Winner of the New London Awards 2020 after also winning prizes for Experiencing Culture and Community! The project holds a special significance for Skelly & Couch as we have had a strong working relationship with the iconic arts hub ever since our practice was founded in 2007. We have been involved in a rolling programme to upgrade the services, enhance the technical infrastructure and improve the thermal performance of the Grade II*-listed 6000m² landmark.

BAC on stage

The challenge of the phased refurbishment was one of consolidating the existing services of varying age and condition, simplifying an entanglement of utility and water supplies, and providing flexible and interconnected spaces, with as little environmental impact as possible, to equip BAC for multiple performance and community uses.

Complex hidden servicing

After the BAC Grand Hall was destroyed by a devastating fire in March 2015, the external envelope and roof were rebuilt to match the original design, whilst the internal elements of the Grand Hall that survived were preserved. Features of the fabric lost in the fire have been reinterpreted, concealed in a complex web of environmental servicing, such as the spectacular plywood lattice ceiling, designed to reflect the original decorative plaster ceiling.

Project data


Battersea Arts Centre

Battersea, south west London

Refurbishment of a Grade II*-listed Building

Project value
£16m (over all phases)

Completion date

Haworth Tompkins

-2019 The Stage Theatre Building of the Year Award
-2019 Chicago Athenaeum, International Architecture Award
-2019 RIBA National Award & two 2019 RIBA London Awards
-2019 Wood Award in the Interiors category
-2020 Civic Trust AABC Conservation
-2020 Experiencing Culture and Community prizes in the New London Awards
-2020 Overall Winner of the New London Awards

Bridge building

The new-build Bridge Theatre is London’s first new commercial theatre of scale for four decades. Overlooking Tower Bridge the 900-seat auditorium is the flagship home of the London Theatre Company and welcomed its first audiences in October 2017. The state-of-the-art prefabricated modular auditorium brings flexibility and the latest in-stage technologies, offering theatre-makers a platform to create adventurous new work.

Sustainable innovation

With a pioneering design approach, the auditorium was made and tested offsite in modular form before being erected as fully coordinated, finished components in the existing building shell. Skelly & Couch adapted a sustainable strategy to respect the space constraints and the existing structure, trying to work with natural daylighting and passive ventilation where possible. For example, we incorporated 10m2 of insulated ventilation louvres to the main foyer for natural ventilation.

Passive performance

In the foyer and other spaces with high occupancy concrete soffits and columns are exposed to use their thermal mass as heat storage, reducing heating and cooling loads and avoiding large temperature fluctuations. The foyer is flooded with natural daylight from the roof and the main façade. The latest LED technologies have been used for the lighting systems throughout the theatre, including the extraordinary collection of 500 bespoke copper light fittings in the foyer.

Project data

London Theatre Company

One Tower Bridge

900-seat theatre with flexible auditorium

Project value

Completion date

Haworth Tompkins

-2017 SFPE Awards, Best Fire Engineering Strategy
-2018 The Stage Awards Theatre Building of the Year
-2018 RIBA London Award
-2018 RICS Award, Design Through Innovation
-2018 AJ Architecture Awards, Cultural Building of the Year (finalist)


Skelly & Couch has delivered sustainable design solutions for 20 theatres and auditoria, including the following ten:

Bush Theatre
Chichester Festival Theatre
Donmar Warehouse
Hoxton Hall
Malthouse, King’s School Canterbury
Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts
National Theatre Costume Workshop
Peter Hall Performing Arts Centre, The Perse School, Cambridge
Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre
Theatre Royal Drury Lane