Boulevard TheatreBlending theatricality and technology in the heart of Soho
There’s nothing we love more than an outrageous brief. The call from The Boulevard was to design a highly intimate, ridiculously flexible venue. The results had to deliver a platform for unparalleled ambition for guests, artists, technicians and audiences. The outcome may just be our most exciting and innovative response to date.
It was Soho Estate’s Fawn James who envisioned the opportunity to build a new venue on the site of the former Boulevard Theatre. Charcoalblue were fortunate to work on this project from the very early stages, alongside the inspirational client team and the extraordinary SODA Architects. After five years of design and three years of construction, together we’ve created a perfectly formed and infinitely adaptable new space.
The Boulevard presented a series of complex challenges and rare opportunities – to create a hard-working venue that will provide audiences with an unforgettable experience in the very heart of thriving Soho. Steeped in the rich history of the swinging sixties, this new venue had to be relevant to the dynamic, contemporary community of today whilst appealing to London’s residents and visitors alike.
Whilst exploring options for an auditorium concept, the site threw up a series of considerable challenges. An incredibly tight footprint and the auditorium’s second floor location with limited access had to be balanced against aspirations for a variety of performance and event orientations and adaptability for commercial opportunities.
The concept developed for a circular performance space with a stalls level and small audience balcony that could be reconfigured at the touch of a button - instantly responsive to any commercial or artistic requirements. The room could be a fashion catwalk by day, a theatre in the evening and a late-night music venue by night, as well as a myriad of other possibilities. To achieve this, Charcoalblue developed a revolving auditorium with a mechanised flexible floor which which transforms the physicality of the room multiple times a day.
The theatre can be enclosed or open itself directly to the foyer, the stage area can be located virtually anywhere within the space. The stalls floor can be tiered or sit completely flat and loose seats can be freely arranged around the space. The rotating, hanging balcony – believed to be the first of its kind – can rotate 270° in either direction to accommodate the various room changes and reimagine what contemporary theatres are capable of. This is a truly adaptable room, a magic box of tricks to play in and to be played with.
The result is a building with immense personality, unashamedly eccentric, but visually rich and striking throughout. As is often the case, inspiration has come from the client team, and we hope that through this spectacular journey and the personal commitment of our team alongside the bond between architects SODA and Charcoalblue, we have established long lasting relationships in the creation of a new benchmark in theatre architecture.
Charcoalblue led all the design stages for the venue, we were appointed as Theatre Consultant leading the room design, audio-visual, performance lighting and the innovative stage engineering. Charcoalblue’s team led the unique high quality flexible seat design in partnership with the architect and specialist manufacture.
There is no venue of this kind or size that can respond to its users in a way that the Boulevard can. It is a testament to innovative thinking, holistic design and close collaboration between the architect, client and operators who, at every stage of the process have had great fun together creating this valuable space within Soho