Local firm to lead Esplanade's new theatre project

An artist's impression of the Esplanade's new Waterfront Theatre, which is slated to open in 2021.
An artist's impression of the Esplanade's new Waterfront Theatre, which is slated to open in 2021.PHOTO: ESPLANADE - THEATRES ON THE BAY

Singapore firm architects61 will lead the construction of The Esplanade - Theatres on the Bay's new $30 million waterfront theatre, slated to open by 2021.

The local firm's team includes international theatre planner Charcoalblue, which led the theatre and acoustic design of Chicago Shakespeare Theatre's new indoor theatre, The Yard. Mobile audience "towers" in The Yard can be rearranged to seat 150 to 850 people.

Flexibility in stage and seating layout was a core requirement for the Esplanade's new theatre, announced in April.

The existing Esplanade Theatre and Esplanade Concert Hall seat just below 2,000 each and the performance centre has two studio spaces able to fit around 200 viewers each. However, most new works of dance and theatre created in Singapore or overseas are meant for theatres of 500 to 1,000 seats.

The new theatre will be built on a 3,000 sq m outdoor space currently occupied by a carpark and the waterfront edge, where free performances are occasionally held. The Esplanade wants the new theatre's design to invite curiosity and engage passers-by, and include an outdoor activities plaza.

The multidisciplinary team constructing this theatre was chosen from a two-stage public call for design tenders. First, senior Esplanade management staff evaluated 17 qualified architectural firms based on track record, strength of the team, design methodology and approach.

Next, six shortlisted teams were chosen to develop their proposals further. These were evaluated by an external panel which included Mrs Rosa Daniel, chief executive of the National Arts Council, and urban design experts such as Ms Fun Siew Leng, chief urban designer at the Urban Redevelopment Authority.

Mr Benson Puah, chief executive officer of The Esplanade, who was also on the panel, said the winning team showed an understanding of the Esplanade's programming and operational needs, the practical constraints of the proposed site, and the cost sensitivity of the project. "We are confident that they will be able to work closely with the Esplanade team to design and develop a theatre that would enable us to inspire our young and nurture the next generation of artists."

Architects61 has won 200 design awards in Singapore and internationally. Its projects include the Jubilee Bridge linking the promenade before the Esplanade to Merlion Park.

The Esplanade's new theatre will cost $30 million, $10 million of which will come from the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth. The Esplanade will raise the rest.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 19, 2017, with the headline 'Local firm to lead Esplanade's new theatre project'. Print Edition | Subscribe