The Sam Wanamaker Playhouse

A oak timer frame forms the centerpiece of this Jacobean-inspired theatre at London's Southbank.

About this project

The Project

Seventeen years after Sam Wanamaker pioneered the reconstruction of Shakespeare’s famous Globe Theatre at London’s Southbank, the brand new Playhouse was opened to the public in January 2014. An indoor theatre was always envisioned to partner the open-air Globe, making it possible for all of Shakespeare’s plays to be performed on site. The stunning new Jacobean-inspired creation does not disappoint.

After extensive scholarly research into the chosen period, the design was largely based on seventeenth century drawings. With a large quantity of Jacobean interiors being constructed from wood, this was an obvious favourite to use in the Playhouse. The main structure is constructed from an oak timber frame, arranged in faceted bays and of a similar style to the Globe Theatre, thus giving both buildings a sense of unity.

The interior is planned to perfection with much of the timber being left natural and certain areas being gilded or painted in order to create the most realistic Jacobean atmosphere. The interior makes the most of the various options of wood surface by cleverly managing to enhance the audience’s experience of candlelight stage performances, with interesting shadows and reflections being created due to the various different surfaces.

It was of incredible importance for sustainable materials to be used in the creation of The Playhouse. The English Oak bears a ‘Grown in Britain’ symbol, whilst all softwood is sourced from either the Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC) or the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) sources, ensuring traceability. Adding to the sustainability of the Playhouse, minor changes have been made such as classic Jacobean wood seasoned oak for the joinery being replaced by kiln dried oak, which absorbs less moisture, due to anticipated humidity levels.

The Playhouse is unique among modern wood buildings with many having an almost futuristic feeling to them. This stunning new addition to the world famous historical site is a welcome reminder of the history – and future - of the use of wood in building. The individuality and sustainability of The Playhouse have earned it a place in the shortlist for the Wood Awards 2014.

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