Project Prospero: introducing new architecture at Shakespeare’s Globe

Allies and Morrison can reveal that we have been working as architect on Project Prospero, an exciting expansion of Shakespeare’s Globe. The project’s ambition is for the Globe to become an international Shakespeare hub, involving the redevelopment of its library and archive into a world-class research centre and creating a new exhibition centre for its unique collection, serving students, researchers and collaborators from around the world, along with new education studios, a production centre and reinvigorated backstage facilities.

As architects for the project, we are designing a new West Block building that will replace an existing temporarily constructed structure adjacent to the Globe Theatre, the new exhibition will be in remodelled basement space with its main entrance through the new building on Bankside. The new structure will also contain a brand new Library and Archive and will extend into the rear service road to accommodate office and production facilities including set making workshops and dressing rooms serving both the Globe and Sam Wanamaker Playhouse. Moreover, the project will involve the remodelling of the sitewide existing basement levels to form an entirely new public exhibition and a suite of rehearsal and education studios.

At four storeys, the new building will be a simple rectilinear form, designed in such a way as to recall the industrial buildings which once lined the river on the same spot while also responding to the elegant simplicity of the Globe Theatre itself. Its Thames-facing elevation will contain a public entrance portico set within a framework of oak posts that wraps around the building’s eastern side fronting the Globe Theatre. The lattice of timber and glass will offer a bold, though contextually sensitive, composition, which complements the construction of the circular theatre. The building represents a new openness, which the more enclosed architecture of the Globe and its Jacobean satellite, the Wanamaker Playhouse, preclude. Its facade is complete, but open, its surfaces pared away to reveal glazed or open spaces, in which much of the Globe’s work will happen.

This will be Allies and Morrison’s second commission for Shakespeare’s Globe. The practice completed theĀ Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, an intimate 340-seat candlelit indoor theatre, as well as an extensive refurbishment of the Globe’s foyers in 2014.