Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon
In summer 2006, the 1050-seat Courtyard Theatre was opened in Stratford-upon-Avon, the birthplace of William Shakespeare. This new temporary facility serves as the main stage of the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford while refurbishment work is taking place on the nearby Royal Shakespeare Theatre, built in the 1930s. In 2011 the Courtyard Theatre will be dismantled. Despite its 14-metre height, the simple cube blends well with the small-scale development around, the Cor-Ten steel on its outer walls harmonising with the red of the surrounding brick buildings without forfeiting any of its industrial charm.
The architects first planned to carry out the facades in raw-sheet excavation piling which would both provide the building envelope and also take all the roof loads. The steel construction firm developed an alternative involving a steel frame construction which supports the roof girders and carries the stage technology. The loadbearing columns are concealed in the profiled metal, which is made to look like sheet piling. This solution ensured the firm could guarantee the building tolerances between the walls and the roof beams and had the added benefit of shortening erection time: only 18 months were available for planning and construction.
The external walls are of 5 mm oxidized trapezoidal sheet profiles. A basic panel consists of two profiles welded together vertically at the mill to form 2 m wide elements. Via welded plates top and bottom these are connected to the perimeter eaves profile and to the reinforced concrete foundations. The joints between the panels are bolted and sealed with weatherstrips.
Structurally separate from this outer skin is the simple, scaffolding-like steel frame for the audience seating. The provisional character of which is underlined by the interior design featuring plain varnished plywood on the walls, floors and seatbacks. The U-shaped arrangement of the rows of seating around the stage brings the audience up close to the performance. With its uncompromising form the Courtyard Theatre is both simple and distinctive; it offers plenty of scope for exciting drama.