Ian Ritchie Architects

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RSC Courtyard Theatre

“I’m so proud of what Ian (Ian Ritchie, the architect) has achieved in making such a handsome building out of this.”
“…This theatre already has charisma. It’s going to be a great place to see Shakespeare – an intimate theatre where the actors and the audience are in the same room, allowing the performance to become an "up-close", shared experience.”
“The end result is a credit to all of those people involved both from the RSC team and those from outside who brought their expertise to the project”
– Michael Boyd, RSC Artistic Director

“In some respects The Courtyard Theatre was a completely mad idea – but the RSC should dream up mad ideas and turn them into reality. The Courtyard Theatre is all that it should be – beautiful, fun, inspiring and successful – indeed everything that I could have hoped for.”
– Vikki Heywood, RSC Executive Director

“When we walked in for the first time, there was an audible gasp.”
– Chuk Iwuji, playing the title role in the Henry VI trilogy

“We went to a preview of the Histories in The Courtyard and had a once in a lifetime experience – epic theatre in a new epic space.”
– Sir Antony Sher and Greg Goran RSC Associate Director

“To have hidden this rusty box in the centre of Stratford (and hidden it is) beggars belief. You really need to search for it as you walk down Waterside. But when you go inside you enter a veritable TARDIS. From the foyer – the old performing space – to the auditorium, it draws gasps of delight from actors, technicians and audience alike. Is there a finer space for Shakespeare in the land?”
– Richard Cordery RSC Actor performing in the Henry VI trilogy

“It’s not often that architects exceed expectations – if only because most clients’ hopes are often unreasonably high. Our hopes were exactly that – and we got more, and better, than we bargained for, on time and on budget. Watching the first public performance from the furthest seat was proof that we had achieved our aims for our audience, in a splendid and charismatic setting.”
– Sir Christopher Bland, Chair RSC

“I think The Courtyard is a total triumph. It looks great inside and out and has the buzz of real theatre – a remarkably elusive quality of which has been captured brilliantly; you can feel it the moment you walk in.
All the public spaces work too – first time since 1960 that I’ve been to Stratford and not had to queue for the loo! Comfortable seats, good signage, air conditioning that works, and the space seems to swallow 1000 people comfortably – who could ask for more. And less than a year ago, as he said, Richard Cordery was parking his car in what is now Row A. Huge thanks to Ian for an extraordinary vision and the belief that we could make magic, and the entire team for achieving this splendid rusty miracle.”
– Susie Sainsbury, RSC Deputy Chair and Chair of RSC Project Committee

“I honestly believe Ian is the only architect who, leading a design team, could have delivered this building within the time and cost constraints we faced and still make it something of such beauty and value. Creating buildings is an enormously collaborative process, and large temporary ones that need to be built in a hurry require even more collaboration than most, and having worked so closely together I now feel I am actually related to some of them.”
– Simon Harper, RSC Project Manager of the Courtyard Theatre

“It is the genius of Ian Ritchie to have brought such simplicity to his solution of the RSC’s need for a temporary performance space by creating the Courtyard. The inspired conversion of The Other Place provides foyer space with a raw theatricality, while the entry into the auditorium, housed in a metal box has a surprising and profound effect. It will change the language of theatrical space, as Tanya Moisewitsch and Tyrone Guthrie did with their thrust stages in the seventies. In a decade when it has frequently taken years to bring buildings of brilliance and innovation to fruition, it is a tribute to the architect, project manager, construction team, technical team and the RSC Board and Management to have brought what is a truly extraordinary building from concept to reality in the space of eleven months.”
– Moss Cooper, Head Capital Arts Programme (1995-2006)

Hanging, said Dr Johnson, concentrates the mind wonderfully. So too does an urgent deadline; and not least in theatre architecture. The latest example is the RSC’s new Courtyard Theatre designed to fill the four-year gap while Stratford’s main house is being reconstructed… the general feeling is that the Courtyard, which has been quickly built in 11 months and is destined to be dismantled in 2010, is a bit of a smasher.
A famous Spanish dramatist once said that all you needed for a theatre was “a board, two planks and a passion”. Peter Brook said an empty space was by itself enough. Well the Courtyard is a bit more than that. But, in the end, it’s simply a 1,000 seat theatre in “a rusty box”. In its transience lies its excitement.
– Michael Billington, The Guardian June 21, 2006

Ritchie’s Courtyard is a simple – but artful – metal box, dropped, like some jumbo shipping container… It does not feel remotely temporary inside… There’s nothing second-rate about it.
– Hugh Pearman, Sunday Times, June 19 2006-07-13