nicoll russell studios
architects + interior designers

Dundee Rep Theatre


Dundee, Scotland

The Rep could be considered as our architectural manifesto because it illustrates our interest in: craft, place making, context, appropriateness, humanity, sensitivity, and detail all in a single project which sets out to inspire its resident actors and heighten the experience of its audiences. It reverently completes Dundee’s only Georgian square located immediately east of the University, and cleverly conceals the scale of the flytower on the diagonal at the rear of its almost square plan. The Rep honestly underlines how it was constructed with an almost brutalist pride, but it is the Rep’s dramatic engagement with its audience, which is perhaps it most important architectural legacy.
A two storey glazed elevation firstly presents a ‘shop window’ to the square. This elevation is partly angled to engage with the pedestrian desire line across the square and illustrates the journey of the audience from the entrance, via the box office, up a grand staircase or wall climber lift, which are both externalised, to the interval bar at first floor level and finally to the auditorium beyond. On the night of a performance the Rep seems to inhabit the square, drawing the audience into its embrace, and heightening the buzz of their anticipation as they climb and are seen to approach the auditorium. Once the visitor is within the building a very compact foyer links all the public spaces on the ground and first floors, set below a stepped concrete ceiling formed by the auditorium above. These spaces are all the more dramatic because of their compact size. Even a modestly successful performance seems full. The buzz in the two storey foyer is heightened by the voids either side of the interval bar which is formed as a bridge linking the left and right hand sound lobbies. These lobbies step down the scale and lead the audience into the magical world of the theatre, which they literally touch by seeming to emerge onto the stage itself before taking their seats in a sudden hush.

Photography : Alan Richardson; Keith Hunter; NRS