Share this page:

Winning Design – The Willow Theatre

The Willow Theatre was a central element to the World Stage Design 2013 festival.

You can view The Willow Theatre winning entry plans here.

wilow-buildVolunteers helped build the temporary venue in time for the full programme of events which included a series of talks, workshops, debates and shows exploring environmental sustainability and the arts.

The programme was titled People, Profit, Planet and you can read about it in full here.

The building’s strength came from hired and returnable industrial scaffolding while the decorative fronts and interior walls were made from UK-produced horticultural fleece, a re-usable material which can also be recycled to make more of the same fabric.  Internal fittings, including the floor and wooden seating were also be re-usable, recyclable and/or reclaimed.

Designer Brad Steinmetz on The Willow Theatre:

“One of the inspirations for the design was horticultural fleece, a material that I had come to know as a scene designer. In addition to being inexpensive, easily recyclable, and available in very large sizes, it has a unique lightness and translucency that Tim and I felt could create a unique environment for a temporary space.

For us, the strips of fabric became like branches of a willow tree, activating the area in the courtyard around the structure and supporting the transition to the interior. The original design used only this translucent fabric for the layers of walls which, along with the fabric strips, would create an interior space that was obscured yet still engaging to those outside, like viewing figures in a fog. Our hope was that this translucency and natural light would support presentations and general gatherings while others would have the option to roll down opaque fabric to darken the space for performances.

To my mind, the most important thing about designing a theatre space is that it be useful to the performances and my sincerest hope is that we have achieved this. The difficult part I believe, especially in the case of this call, has been trying to both create a unique venue while also supporting a variety of uses, many of which demand more traditional conditions. Add to that the insurmountable costs of making the space adaptable instead of fixed and it’s easy to see the kinds of difficult choices John and Ian had to make as they brought this theatre to life.

I would be remiss if I didn’t thank John, Ian, Sean and the countless volunteers who worked hard for weeks and months on this project. It was fascinating to watch the space being built from across the ocean and it has been thrilling to be here and see all of the wonderful offerings at WSD.”