In the decade 1965-76 Lasdun's time was taken up with the National Theatre, his one truly public building in that it is open to all, inside and out. It is therefore by this building, of national importance and on a prominent site, and with public interiors, that Lasdun will be judged by most people - and for which he was knighted on its completion and awarded the RIBA Gold Medal.

The best approach to the National Theatre is across Waterloo Bridge, rather than from the South Bank. A visually difficult aspect of theatre design is how to deal with the bulky fly towers in which scenery is suspended above the stage. Here the two towers do dominate the skyline, yet they are part of a harmonious composition; having two auditoria actually helps, as the smaller fly tower modulates the scale between the larger one and the rest of the building.

The larger fly tower appears set diagonally above the main entrance rising through the strata rather than sitting oppressively on the roof. The strata, forming terraces outside the foyers, relate to the different levels of the pedestrian decks; and from inside they form viewing galleries framing the theatre of life outside. The decks are not simply access ways, or just places to sit out, but extend the foyers onto the embankment to promote and extend human relationships.

 

The inside outside continuum is enhanced by the exposed concrete waffle slabs of the strata, and full height glazing. The interior finishes have been compared to those of a multistorey car park. However the finishes to the concrete are not crude but precise, even where boardmarked, and no car park has ever received such a high quality finish.

 

 

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