The new Hampstead Theatre was the first freestanding theatre to be built in London since the National Theatre in 1975. The building has been designed to support Hampstead Theatre’s tradition of fostering new writing, with a flexible stage and a compact auditorium that can adapt to each play and production.
Hampstead Theatre was also the catalyst for a major reworking of the whole Swiss Cottage site in north-west London, encapsulated in the first masterplan carried out in 1994 by Bennetts Associates. Over subsequent years Hampstead Theatre was offered grants by the Arts Council of England to develop detailed designs for a new theatre and Camden Council developed the practice’s masterplan concept, including a new leisure centre and public park.
The building’s sculptural form expresses the volume of the auditorium and stage rising out of a rectangle of ancillary accommodation. A large basement prevents the building from dominating the site. The auditorium’s shallow ellipse accommodates various sizes of audience and stage format while maintaining the feel of a complete ‘room’. Flexible education and production workshops facilitate the client’s work commissioning and staging new plays.