Sadler’s Wells Theatre
London, Great Britain
- De Matos Ryan
- Rosebery Avenue, EC1R 4TN London, Great Britain
- 2014 Gross internal area
3330 sq m (Front of House)
September 2014 (Phase 1)
Sadler’s Wells Foundation Ltd
De Matos Ryan
Sadler’s Wells Foundation Ltd
Gleeds Cost Management Ltd
M&E Services Engineer
E3 Consulting Engineers LLP
Edge Structures Ltd
De Matos Ryan has completed the first phase of a refurbishment programme at London’s Sadler’s Wells as part of a wider overhaul scheme of technical, lighting, plant and systems replacement over three years. The refurbishment makes a range of important improvements to Sadler’s Wells ensuring that the organisation, its buildings and equipment are made resilient and able to operate at full capacity, be energy efficient and environmentally sustainable, offer optimal accessibility and increase the overall visitor experience.
The theatre, part of a Grade II-listed historic site, has undergone several alterations over the years, including a modern ‘wrapping’ which envelopes the auditorium. Largely rebuilt in 1998, the renowned venue was in need of significant renewal to maintain its position as London’s premier international dance house.
Operating within the limits imposed by a modest budget, De Matos Ryan has achieved a sensory refresh using a sophisticated and detailed programme in a building with great historic and cultural significance. There has been a theatre on this site since 1683, and Sadler’s Wells has an international reputation that is matched by its place as a national and civic treasure. This renewal project ensures that it can continue as a world-class arts venue and one that enhances its local community.
The refurbishment increases the theatre’s visibility and reveals a refreshed interior as part of a strategy that enhances the journey from pavement to auditorium with a newly transformed foyer to prepare visitors for the experience that awaits them. Work undertaken includes the addition of a new internally lit portal, framing a redesigned entrance, making intelligent yet subtle changes to interior spaces as well as bringing in new energy saving measures alongside a new lighting design strategy.
The addition of a striking new luminous portal to the entrance enhances the building’s presence on Rosebery Avenue through the use of glowing red-tinted glass. Set against the existing 4-storey glazed elevation, the 5.4m wide by 2.7m high portal highlights the main point of public access and provides a clear connection to the main auditorium identified by its distinctive Sadler’s Wells red at the heart of the building.
A new LED lighting scheme introducing indirect lighting transforms the glazed facade into a window of light, giving greater visibility into the building. Carefully calibrated, the new lights use less energy, while helping to characterise and define the interior spaces. The open stair within the main foyer reaches 4-storeys high and is now given centre stage with a new ‘ribbon of light’ detail along the stair stringers, concealing cabling while animating the glass frontage.
An enhanced tonal palette of colours and materials is used to carry visitors on a journey through the building and a gradually calming process to temporarily disconnect from the hustle and bustle of city life. The movement from entrance toward the auditorium is signalled by a tonal chromatic progression through a series of thresholds adjusting the visitor’s mood and eyes to the darker interior of the auditorium in anticipation of the performance about to be experienced.
Interior surfaces have also been overhauled. The ticket office and bar fronts have all been re-faced in polished and patterned stainless steel, creating brighter focal elements in these key areas. The triple-height ‘art wall’ used to display large-scale works and installations has been retained and given new emphasis. A screen of columns that marks Sadler’s Wells’ earlier facade, but which was enclosed in 1998, has been emphasised in a dark shade of grey, drawing attention to the building’s historic line.
On the mezzanine floor, the Rosebery Room, a multi-functional space, offers a moodier, more atmospheric retreat. Its fine view of tree-lined Rosebery Avenue has been enriched with adjustable lighting and muted grey walls framing the large windows. Fitted with new soft acoustic panels, the space will now better cater for a diverse range of private and public activities.
The current bar on this level will be replaced with a mobile two-piece bar unit. The bespoke design by De Matos Ryan features an architectural relief model of the old Sadler’s Wells behind glazed panels, recalling both the historic heritage and the creative concepts of the venue to establish a distinctive focal point.
The re-vamp of the main 1500-seat auditorium involved re-upholstering all of the seating in fabric featuring three colours blended to match the previous red colour, and a bespoke carpet designed by De Matos Ryan that now continues seamlessly into a more animated foyer beyond the auditorium.
Work was also undertaken to the entrance of the Lilian Baylis Studio, to establish a new and distinct identity for the smaller 180-seat theatre within Sadler’s Wells’ Rosebery Avenue site with the use of a striking new emerald colour inspired by the portrait of Lilian Baylis that hangs near the studio.