Stora Enso Building Solutions have supplied Cross Laminated Timber (CLT) for a series of significant new buildings at London’s iconic Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre which is celebrating its 80th season this year.
The much loved Theatre is a London landmark and a firm fixture of summer in the city, with more than 130,000 people attending performances between May and September. The auditorium is one of the largest in London with 1,240 seats, yet those who attend say it is also one of the most intimate.
The series of buildings were designed by Haworth Tompkins Architects and erected by specialist timber contractors, Eurban. The new backstage area comprises a new office block, dressing rooms, wardrobe area and workshops and front of house a new box office and sheltered seating canopy have been created.
The various buildings are constructed using pre-fabricated Cross Laminated Timber (CLT) boards produced at Stora Enso’s Bad St. Leonards mill in Austria. The specification of CLT allowed for construction within the 6-month window between theatre seasons. The lightweight frames required minimal foundations and enabled existing tree-root systems to be preserved.
Most of the internal surfaces of the industrial grade CLT boards have been left exposed - a testament perhaps to the excellent quality of Stora Enso’s CLT.
Project architect, Ken Okwonko explains “we were keen on the aesthetic of CLT as an internal finish due to the nature of the site, within a densely wooded section of the park, and the type of functions of the spaces”.
The decision to leave the inner facings exposed also removes the need for ‘wet’ trades such as plastering and provides a blank canvas against which the theatre company can work.
“CLT naturally lends itself to the landscape of this historic royal park and the internal exposure of the boards gives a fresh and robust feeling of wellbeing to members of the public and of the theatre company” says Wayne Probert, UK Sales Manager, Stora Enso Building and Living.
Given that most of the spaces are backstage, the exposed surfaces work well and the CLT appears almost as a ‘wallpaper’ - ready to work against, whether in the changing room, workshop annexe or the staff offices. CLT is a robust material that can be pinned-to, painted directly and easily takes screw fixings to deal with future aesthetic uplifts to the interiors if needed.
The new box office is central to the renovation as it presents the public face of the theatre, which is open all year round. When completely closed the Box Office presents a subdued frontage to the park and when in use the building opens out onto the surrounding landscape revealing the exposed CLT within which has been decorated with gilded foliage to hint at the theatrical magic to follow. In total the box office has three configurations depending on its use throughout the day and season.
“I am delighted that Stora Enso has had the opportunity to play a part in such an environmentally & culturally important project. The UK Government is committed to sustainability in all areas of construction and it is great news that CLT’s excellent sustainability credentials are being increasingly recognised” Probert continues.
Photos: (c) David Jenson