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Flanagan Lawrence Plans to Put a Spin on the New Wembley Theatre

by Rick Anderson

In London’s northwest corner, Wembley, home to an eponymous stadium (of soccer legend) and arena (of concert lore), will soon have yet another landmark named after it: Wembley Theatre, a 1,300-seat venue slated to be up and running by 2017. Designed by London architecture firm Flanagan Lawrence , this new performing arts space has been fashioned as an inverse to theater-in-the-round. With it, the stage will surround an auditorium. To make that arrangement work, the architects, working with the Dutch theatre company Imagine Nation, devised a technical innovation, creating an auditorium that rotates 360 degrees, providing a kinetic panorama of the stage.

Flanagan Lawrence won the project as a result of a design competition. The new building will occupy a space next to the stadium and arena. In yet another twist, the client has only a 10-year lease to occupy its site, meaning that by 2027, it will dismantle the structure and transport it elsewhere. To take that relatively short lifespan into account, the architects designed a structural system that allow the venue to be quickly assembled (and disassembled) on-site. With the theater’s steel frame and prefabricated cladding, the company can pick up and move with relative ease.

The auditorium will rotate 360 degrees.

The project comes at a time when London officials have targeted Wembley for urban regeneration, hoping to make the area known for more than its oversize venues. Part of their strategy relies on arts-based developments like Wembley Theatre. In collaboration with film production company Lionsgate, Imagine Nation will inaugurate its new London space with a staging of The Hunger Games on June 8.

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