Potemkin Theatre

Maich Swift Architects, London, 2019



David Grandorge     Download Original

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This little theatre is the third of the Architecture Foundation’s annual Antepavilion competitions

Self-built, it provided valuable construction skills for architecture students and volunteers and has staged a series of popular events. The timber-framed theatre is dressed with a colourfully painted canvas lining. The colours were chosen to be harmonious with the surrounding trees and the canal, and the pattern predetermined to some extent by the standard size of the plywood panelling. The composition and arrangement of windows and stairways is a reimagination of Monsieur Hulot’s house in Jacques Tati’s 1958 film Mon Oncle. The other side of the structure is left open revealing the interior and exaggerating the thinness of the canvas frontage when seen obliquely. The timber platform frame has four different floor levels connected by an internal stairway and ladder. Cantilevers and setbacks at each level of the panelled structure give a vertical quality and variety to the form from different points of view. The project makes use of cheap, readily available materials all of which are natural, renewable or easily recycled. These included canvas, laminated veneer lumber, spruce plywood and linseed oil paint.

The emphasis is on flexibility in use. Providing a variety space with the potential for a wide range of public events was important - we secured an Arts Council grant to support a series of events relating to architecture and performance arts. A stage orientated out towards the canal and surrounding streets offered the potential for public performances. The two-sided aspect lent itself to engagement from both the canal side and the rooftop. Over late Summer, the theatre hosted twenty different events which included talks and discussions, film screenings, including Mon Oncle and performance of Peter Maxwell Davies’ 8 Songs for a Mad King.

Volunteers (Construction): Kat Bruh, Shanice Abbey, Ebun Andu, Irene Barcarolo, Kristin Chan, Morgan Davies, Luke O’Donovan, Leiah Fournier, David Grandorge, Kezia Harper, Kaya Korablina, Ekta Mehta, Eunice Naddamba, Aya Rehman, Yara Samaha, Pragga Saha, Alex Scally, Richard Swift, Amy Teh, Elaine Wong Events: Dan Ball, Becky Brown, Roland Smith, Peter Wiedmann


  • Begun: Jun 2019
  • Completed: Jul 2019
  • Floor area: 54m2
  • Sector: Arts and culture
  • Total cost: £18,232
  • Funding: Private
  • Tender date: Mar 2019
  • Procurement: Self Build
  • Address: Brunswick & Columbia Wharf, 55 Laburnum St, London, E2 8BD, United Kingdom

Professional Team