Somerset House Auditorium
- Finalists in public competition
Somerset House is a place to imagine, make and experience culture and art. The world of creative activities happening in the underground level of the building is of great power, it is in fact the centre of the building nowadays. Therefore, we imagined the new auditorium as a generous hall, a working space open all hours, hosting all kinds of activity, all day long, connecting to the workshops and creative spaces all around it. In order for connection to happen between the creative and the performative spaces, the design works with the internal horizontal connections of the building, so that the creators could move through it, breathing normally and without solemnity. The sequences of spaces provide a natural passage from one stage to another, every space a potential site for creation or engagement.
The character of the new venue is given by three existing walls: The West Wing’s facade, the Victorian two storey building’s façade, and the North Terrace vaults. These three elements appear in the new auditorium with an active role. The old facades are actively incorporated in the design, with some windows becoming doors of access to the auditorium and the windows at gallery level becoming seats. This radical reuse ensures the space resonates with Somerset House’s pasts, provides a characterful provocation to contemporary performers, and significantly reduces the costs of the build. A rich ensemble of found elements and new insertions. A clear economical approach. The found layers of history remain as untouched as possible, with all the lives of the building in sight, without hierarchy. This approach provides an unfinished character to the spaces helping artists to feel relaxed and confident in their creative process.
A London Street
Much of London’s most vital public culture occurs on its streets. A good street, well-connected to its adjacent spaces, provokes a diversity of uses and nurtures serendipity. We propose West Street as a robust street with a useful hidden infrastructure of power, data and water to enable all manner of events. The possibility of re-establishing West Street while incorporating a venue underneath is explored in the proposal.
A street as a stage
The interior proportions of the new auditorium are those of a street: a length of 30 metres and a width of 12. Under West Street, a street-like theatre, in the centre of the submerged creatives who will flow into it, at all hours of the day, to rehearse and create.
|Team:||Flores & Prats with AOC Architecture|
|Flores & Prats’ collaborators:||Luka Jerman, Makoto Hayashi, Judith Casas|
|Situation:||Somerset House, Strand, London|