writing this only a few days after the death of peter hall, the director and manager who for over half a century dominated the british theatre, this building has been the home of britain’s national theatre since it moved here from its location tucked away behind waterloo station at the old vic in 1976.
officially known as the ‘royal national theatre’ the title is very rarely used. although known as the national theatre, the building in fact houses three separate theatres; the olivier, named after the great actor and founder of the national theatre at the old vic, laurence olivier, the lyttelton, and the dorfman (formerly know as the cottesloe).
the NT is regarded as one of the foremost brutalist buildings and one of the finest examples of post-war modernism in the uk. it was designated a grade II listed building in 1994 (from wikipedia: The current building was designed by architects Denys Lasdun and Peter Softley and structural engineers Flint & Neill and contains three stages, which opened individually between 1976 and 1977. The construction work was carried out by Robert McAlpine.)
the site in total covers a huge area on the south bank and dominates its surroundings in a set of horizontal terraces and walkways, the expanses of raw concrete relieved here and there with grass and some floral plantings in what lasdun, the principal architect, envisioned to be architecture as urban landscaping. despite its prestige, as architecture and in its prominent position on the southbank, it seems to be as much loved as it is reviled. that champion of architectural conservatism, and self-appointed guardian of england’s architectural heritage, charles windsor, has variously compared it to a giant fallout shelter or nuclear reactor. for others however, including the architectural historian and critic, niklaus pevsner, himself no lover of brutalism, it was a very fine example of what can be achieved with raw concrete and an uncompromising commitment to modernity.