Singapore firm architects61 to lead design of Esplanade's new $30m waterfront theatre

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

The local firm is partnering London's Charcoalblue, which led the theatre and acoustic design of Chicago Shakespeare Theatre's new indoor theatre, The Yard. The Yard's flexible design includes mobile audience towers so the theatre can be reconfigured to seat from 150 to 850 viewers.

A statement from Charcoalblue partner Byron Harrison reveals that the design for the Esplanade's Waterfront Theatre will also include movable seating elements so that the seating capacity can be increased beyond the 550 originally intended.

The proposed construction of a 550-seat theatre at the Esplanade was announced in April to give arts groups much-needed space to stage new work and attract more audiences. Most new works of dance and theatre created in Singapore or overseas are meant for theatres of 500 to 1,000 seats.

The existing Esplanade Theatre and Esplanade Concert Hall seat just below 2,000 each and the performance centre also has two studio spaces able to fit around 200 viewers each.

A public call for design tenders for the new theatre was carried out in two stages. In the first stage, senior management staff from the Esplanade evaluated 17 qualified architectural firms based on track record, strength of the team, design methodology and approach.

In the second stage, six short-listed teams were chosen to develop their proposals further. These were evaluated by an external panel, which included arts and urban design experts such as Ms Fun Siew Leng, chief urban designer at the Urban Redevelopment Authority, and Professor Heng Chye Kiang of the National University of Singapore's Department of Architecture - School of Design and Environment.

 

Said Mr Benson Puah, chief executive officer of The Esplanade, who was also on the evaluation panel: "The winning team led by architects61 has shown an understanding of Esplanade's operating needs, the practical constraints of the proposed site, and the cost sensitivity of the project.

"Given their track record and experience, 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."

The new theatre will cost $30 million, $10 million of which will come from the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth. The other $20 million will be raised by Esplanade through corporate sponsorship and public fund raising. Recent fund-raising efforts included backstage tours of the theatres, led by Mr Puah. Naming rights will also be offered for the Waterfront Theatre.