Some architectural practices will have experience in the design of theatres from completed projects, some may be approaching this most fascinating and demanding design field for the first time. Few will have tackled projects as varied as lecture rooms, opera houses and concert halls in the number and variety that a qualified Theatre Consultant has. He or she can help in setting out on the most fruitful path. The Theatre Consultant is there to amplify or explain the client brief and to work with the architects to develop it to an architectural brief, melding into an architectural concept.
The hugely different requirements of a community theatre, owned and operated by unwaged practitioners, through a receiving theatre taking in professional touring product to a producing theatre with departments making costumes and properties (even scenery) to a full opera house are familiar to Theatre Consultants. In the same way Theatre Consultants have experience of the niceties of a college lecture theatre (a domestic audience sharing a room) to a learned society lecture theatre where some expectation of gravitas is required. And also the small space where the ‘craic’ (there is no English equivalent to the mix of gossip, wit and fantasy that this Irish word encompasses) can be shared after a show or a storyteller can amaze young children with tales of wonder.
The Theatre Consultant is someone with whom to bounce ideas and to offer examples that may guide or help crystallise architectural design issues.
Theatre Consultants are there too for the mundane; how many lavatories and where to place them in the public spaces so that they are evident to those who need them, not too far from partners going to the bar, and yet discrete enough not to obtrude in the enjoyment of the foyer spaces. How big is an ice-cream store? how high is a scene store? How many seats to row depth, how many and size of entrance and escape doors, what is the size of a poster case? and hundreds of other pieces of information the design team need to know. Early assimilation of these factors help to shape the design positively and minimise redesign when the project comes to statutory regulation and approvals.
Perhaps most important of all the Theatre Consultant is someone with whom to bounce ideas and to offer examples that may guide or help crystallise architectural design issues.
As the project progresses there are times when the differing timescales of the theatre, in which a physical theatre production set or technology can be varied at any time in rehearsal until the moment the show opens, will confront the long slow and progressive stages of the building design and construction industry with its need for certainty years before the final building is opened. The Theatre Consultant is there to help reduce such potentially expensive confrontations, helping the client to have confidence in the design process and its outcomes before stages are complete.