Heritage Category:
Listed Building
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Statutory Address:

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Greater London Authority
Lambeth (London Borough)
National Grid Reference:
TQ 31352 79847


963/0/10168 THE CUT 20-MAR-06 83-101 Royal National Theatre Studio

II Former theatre scenery workshops, wardrobe stores and offices to the Old Vic Theatre, originally called the Old Vic Annexe, now studios and offices to the Royal National Theatre. 1957-58 by Lyons Israel Ellis, assistants John Miller and Christopher Dean; Hajnal and Myers engineers.

MATERIALS: Reinforced concrete frame, exposed internally and externally, boardmarked and with china clay aggregate, now painted, infilled with non load-bearing engineering brick and some foam slag blocks on ground floor. Board room overlooking Webber Street of monolithic reinforced concrete. Aluminium monopitch roof over main front range of building, rear roof flat and asphalt covered, inset with slanted rooflights which are a distinctive feature of this firm's work.

PLAN: 2 and 3 storeys high. Building comprises two distinct halves, physically expressed by recess on the Webber Street elevation. The front (N) range, comprising ground floor offices, first-floor former wardrobe workshops and second floor former paint studio, is separated from the rear block, comprising double-height former scenery workshop, loading bay with boardroom, by a continuous 50' slot formed by setting the intermediate floors on cantilevers, which contains the vertically hoisted timber paint frame for scenery painting. The slot defines the both the building's external form and interior planning.

EXTERIOR: Long, canted front range of three storeys and basement, surmounted by tall projecting lift tower and boiler chimney to either end. Ground and first floor of 13 bays, the concrete grid inset with varnished Columbian pine window frames with strongly-expressed transoms. The same idiom is used in the full-height glazed stairwell, which breaks through brick-faced wall of the upper floors, and the rear boardroom. Upper floors have clerestorey glazing under expressed floor and (thicker) roof slabs. Entrance on canted return into Webber Street with cantilevered concrete canopy, timber and glazed doors. Loading bay and board room above carried on 4 pilotis; this block is canted back from the frontage block creating a wedge shape; end of the boardroom oversails ground floor. Corbusian concrete fire escape to rear of boardroom. Rear elevation of brick; concrete hopper heads project from roof slab. Enclosed escape stair on E elevation.

INTERIOR: Entrance hall and stairwell with concrete open-tread staircase with canted risers, metal balustrade. Ground-floor suite of offices with timber and glass screens to corridor. First-floor former wardrobe area now open plan. Third-floor paint studio has large rooflights set between exposed slanted concrete beams. Along the length of the rear wall is the slot containing the mechanically operated timber paint frame. Rear boardoom has full-height timber panelling on the end wall, the four exposed pilotis continuing up from the ground floor. Other than some panelling in the former wardrobe area and boardroom, internal finishes are generally unplastered brick.

HISTORY: The Old Vic (qv) is one of the oldest surviving theatres in England which, under the auspices of Lilian Baylis, played a pioneering role in bringing serious drama to a working-class audience. In 1963 it became the first home of the National Theatre Company under Sir Laurence Olivier. The Annexe was built to house scenery workshops, a painting studio for backcloth canvases, wardrobe stores, fitting and cutting room and offices, which had previously been dispersed around London. The need for a specialised ancillary building was a product of the Old Vic's growth during and after the war and was a wholly new building type which has never been repeated. It is one of the earliest and purest examples of 'New Brutalism' which emerged from Corbusian aesthetics of raw, expressed shuttered concrete, epitomising the New Brutalist aesthetic of exaggerated, dramatic shapes and honestly expressed materials. The idiom was perfectly suited to the building's use, being 'directly expressive of its complex internal activities "truthful" architecture, which has certain industrial connotations, as befits a workshop' (l'Architettura, 1960). Since 1984 it has been used as a 'laboratory' for theatre performance research comprising studio workshops, writers' studios and offices.

SUMMARY OF IMPORTANCE: One of the earliest examples of New Brutalism, these are the only architect-designed theatre workshops ever built in Britain, designed to a unique brief by a leading architectural practice. The building has important historical association with the Old Vic, one of Britain's most distinguished theatres, with which it has strong group value.


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This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

End of official listing

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