The Stage, a £750m mixed-use scheme in Shoreditch, has been given planning consent for its purpose-built visitor centre, which will showcase the remains of the recently excavated Curtain Playhouse – one of London’s most important and longest-running Elizabethan theatres.
Designed by architects, Perkins&Will, visitors will have the opportunity to immerse themselves into the ambience of an Elizabethan playhouse as Shakespeare once did and see some of the artefacts uncovered during the detailed excavation. Within the building, the centrepiece will be a glass stage which will be constructed to float above the archaeology remains. This will also become a stage for evening performances, continuing the celebration of the arts.
Designed to honour the Curtain Playhouse’s heritage, corrugated, perforated and polished stainless steel panels have been chosen as the facade – a reference to a folded fabric curtain that both reveals and hides a theatre stage. Following the discovery of a bird whistle during the detailed dig, which archaeologists believe could have been used as a sound effect for productions such as Romeo & Juliet, the shapes of nightingales and larks have been incorporated in the perforation patterns as a celebration of both night and day, which makes this building truly unique. The inscription of the text from Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet that refers to it will also be displayed making a powerful impact on the space.
In order to sit comfortably in the plaza of The Stage, the architects at Perkins&Will have also curated the shape of the visitor centre to provide vistas into the public realm from Curtain Road. Its sloping roof is cut into with raked stepped seating that face a landscaped arena that animates the plaza. Like an opening curtain the corrugated cladding panels are pulled aside on the corner to reveal a glazed entrance to visitor centre and a staircase and lift that leads down to the archaeological remains that are now under the plaza.
Once complete, The Stage will feature more than 400 new homes, 33,000 sq ft of retail, including restaurants and cafes, and 200,000 sq ft of office space. The visitors centre is set to be completed in 2022.
Chris Brandon, Architect at Perkins&Will, commented: “The visitor centre has been designed from the inside out with the stage at its centre. Uniquely the Elizabethan stage base has survived and provided us with the opportunity to re-install the stage platform in its original position. Visitors and actors will be able to walk on the stage and stand in the footsteps of Shakespeare and his company; a truly extraordinary experience.”
Jonathan Goldstein, Chief Executive, Cain International, commented: “Preserving London’s history has been an essential part of this project from the outset, and securing planning permission that will allow us to share this history with locals and visitors is a major milestone in our journey at The Stage.
“The Stage is putting Shoreditch firmly on the global map and this purpose-built centre, which has been shaped by the findings of the excavation will ensure London’s original theatreland is not forgotten. We look forward to working with our partners in ensuring the visitor centre is not just a hub of history but a centre for the community, celebrating Shoreditch’s past, present and future.”