Ian Ritchie Architects

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RSC Courtyard Theatre

This book tells the story of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Courtyard Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon, from the roots of its design in the history of thrust stages to the details of collaboration and leadership that delivered what Michael Billington in The Guardian called ‘a bit of a smasher’. It received a RIBA National Award in 2007.

The RSC’s brief for Ian Ritchie Architects was phenomenally challenging: it was for a temporary transitional building that could be unbolted and recycled, cost less than £6 million, and be ready to stage its first performance less than twenty months later. The Courtyard Theatre opened on 7 July 2006, on time and within budget.

The rusty red Cor-Ten steel box enveloped a structurally independent auditorium – a thrilling space that successfully combined scale and intimacy between actors and audience, and within the audience itself. The reactions of actors, audiences and critics were universally so positive that at the end of 8 years, rather than dismantle the building, the RSC asked Ian Ritchie Architects to work with them once again to introduce new uses for the now iconic enclosure, turning it into the ‘soul’ of new writing and rehearsal for the Royal Shakespeare Company.