Flexible and cost-effective

The Project of a demountable venue

Bühnentechnische Rundschau

Not only for the periods of renovation of theatres, interim spaces are required more often than ever. Also for special productions such as musicals or big events, the market for temporary buildings is groweing. A solid structure should be built in a way that it can stay for a long period but also to be moved easily to another place. The firm Serious Space has developed the project of a temporary theatre on the basis of its international experience with infrastructures for big events. First commissions are being discussed.

More shows than ever before are touring regionally, nationally, internationally, creating an increasingly global audience with growing expectations. Continuing development of the arts toward being accessible to all has led to increased variety of shows catering to different sized audiences. The limited availability of permanent venues means lack of booking opportunities, creating commercial challenges for the shows.

Refurbishment schedules of permanent venues mean a significant lull in programming, creating a correlating lack of marketing, exposure and interest - and ultimately, commercial loss – for the venue.

Serious Space is a recent addition to the Serious group of companies developing exactly this: The TH2 Series are flexible venue solutions that can be purpose-designed to Theatre, Concert Hall, Studio Theatre (and other) specifications. Demountable, durable, sustainable and cost-effective, TH2 can be commissioned and ready for the first show in as little as 13 -18 months. Constructed from durable building materials and compliant to applicable building codes, TH2 can stand in situ for 5, 10, 20 or more years but its modular construction method enables it to be dismantled and re-erected at a different location – locally, regionally or even internationally.

Founded in 2016, Serious Space designs and delivers demountable entertainment venues that can accommodate theatre productions, concerts, exhibitions and more, without compromising the quality of the production or the audience experience.

The Serious Space team leverages enviable track records of success of the individual team members in delivering some of the world’s most memorable and significant events including the 2004 Athens Olympic Games Opening and Closing Ceremonies, the Hong Kong Handover Ceremony, Jose Carreras at Angkor Wat, the Opening Ceremony for the Shanghai Expo, Louis Vuitton on West Kowloon, and Chanel Mobile Art. Led by David Rule and Adam Wildi, the Serious Space team has extensive experience working with governments, global brands, and international touring shows on large-scale projects around the world. Supported by a network of reputable partners, all highly experienced and qualified in their respective fields, the TH venue series provides clients with innovative, customized and functional solutions.

How the idea developed

The following projects might give an idea of what kind of flexible venues we have designed before. The Chanel mobile Art was an art gallery, commissioned by Karl Lagerfeld for Chanel and designed by Zaha Hadid Associates, We constructed it in Yorkshire and toured it through three countries in 78 Sea Containers. The Pavilion took a year to design and prototype, it was designed to set up in four weeks. It was approximately 4500 square metres, had a capacity of around 200 visitors

Another fashion Gallery was realised by David Rule for Louis Vuitton in West Kowloon, Hong Kong. It has a steel frame structure, notably a panelled, projection façade. This was temporary engineering at its most flexible. The structure was 32m wide by 60m long by 20m high it was a purpose build event space with banqueting/Fashion show space for 300 guests and a stage for large shows

Athens Olympics 2004 opening ceremony, a stadium with an open roof above the field of play, not, in itself unusual, except the requirement, amongst other things was to do this a giant head weighing 20 tonnes was pulled up from a subterranean chamber, separated into 18 pieces which then flea around the stadium where videos were projected upon them. The whole thing supported by a steel wire grid, tensioned across the Stadium at high level.

Beach Volleyball…This was part of a substantial Locog contract including the mall sports and St James Park infrastructure, built entirely of scaffolding, the venue held 15,000 the installation and removal was substantially truncated due to State function, so we had 4 weeks to install and 3 weeks to remove. There was huge affection for the venue, the location was a big plus but also the wide Arena seating had a substantial beneficial affect in that they were far more comfortable than your average plastic seat. I am probably still constrained to mention the budget, but it was reasonable. This was a temporary venue built to a high standard of compliance in a heritage location with the tightest time scales.

On the Beach Volleyball London Olympic project we achieved 98% recycling or reusability in terms pof sustainability matrix. The reason for the high figure was the amount of rental product on the job. On the Chanel Project, with Zaha Hadid as the architect, the building was bespoke, but still achieved a 12 year life.

The work is always specialist, procurement requires very careful selection process‘

From a specific structure to a flexible theatre

Some years ago David and I identified the market need for what you have just seen. Then a couple of years ago we put a Design team together.

Including Abigail and Dan at Momentum for Structural Engineering, Mark Taylor from Hong Kong is our consultant, Barry Jobling at Hoare Lee is the acoustician for the project and Wonder works are technical Design realisation, indeed they put the animation you have just seen together from the steel design they undertook from Momentums direction.

Looking now at the Theatrical venue sector: We developed a flexible theatre in parallel to the projects above and could you integrate experience from these projects to the building. The thinking developed from conversations between projects to more serious involvement leading to a design development program that is currently underway.

From our experience, we know that Flexible solutions are required in theatre because of the following reasons:

1.there is limited finance for constructing what one could call Permanent commercial theatrical Venue, worldwide.

2.Refurbishment/Upgrade schedules of permanent venues mean a significant lull in programming, creating a lack of marketing, exposure and interest - and ultimately, commercial loss – for the venue.

3. More shows than ever before are touring regionally, nationally, internationally, creating an increasingly global audience with growing expectations. There are simply, not enough Venues and production values suffer dramatically where suitable venue are unavailable

4. Continuing development of the Arts toward being accessible to all has led to an increased requirement for modern smart venues

We are saying that there is a solution that meets all of these challenges

The solution

A single design to meet multiple needs, TH2 provides a solution to:

  • Shows that need a 5-year venue and the flexibility to relocate thereafter;

  • Permanent venues looking to maintain a robust programme and audience loyalty during lengthy refurbishment schedules;

  • Locations (towns and cities) looking to create a venue but hesitant about the budget and commitment to a permanent building; and

Owners of permanent venues wanting to add venues to their existing portfolio at lower cost and higher flexibility

The TH2 series has been designed using a series of heavy duty prefabricated steel truss frames, joined to each other with removable pins. Each frame is joined to the next one with additional trusswork. The Frame can be built to varying heights allowing, for example, Stage End at a greater height than a Foyer and Auditorium.

The Building is clad in bespoke, soundproof composite cladding.

Stood off the weatherproof envelope and surrounding the Building is an external steel support system designed to support an LED or decorative façade.

The Building requires non-pile slab-type foundations.

The Build period including ground preparation is around 4 - 5 months and the removal is around 2

Although unique in its design and construction method, the interior experience for the audience and the performers alike will be indistinguishable from that of a permanent venue.

The design is led by space considerations and comfort, from the seating to the acoustics and the air handling systems.

The structures all have state of the art building control systems including fire safety systems appropriate to local regulations.

Technical facilities are bespoke to client needs, but include sophisticated motion control systems over stage and broadcast facilities

TH2 is a cost-effective alternative to a permanent facility, with the added benefits of modularity – providing flexibility in size, customization – ensuring your venue meets your specific preferences and needs, and sustainability – providing you with the ability to dismantle and re-erect your venue in a different location of choice.

Designed for durability but built with innovation, TH2 is a unique venue solution for production companies looking to own their performance venue, permanent venues facing refurbishment and programming interruption, venue owners seeking to diversify their portfolio of properties and governments/ communities who want to encourage access to the arts and attract touring productions to their locations.

TH2.4 is the flagship design within the venue series and is a 1,800 seats theatre.

- The Building is 100m long x 42m wide on the outside. The exterior height at the Foyer end is 24m, at the Stage end is 28m.

- The Auditorium has a seating capacity of 1750 – 1900 seats including balcony and slip seating,

- The Theatre has a full size Proscenium Arch, Stage and Fly Tower.

- The height to the underside of the grid is 23m.

- The Foyer is a multipurpose event venue which can be readily transformed to cocktail, lounge, theatre master class, TED space etc. It has a Fibre network allowing for Recording and/or Live Broadcast.

- The massive exterior LED screen can be programmed for different visuals in no time for programme promotion or advertising.

-- The load-in space / orientation can be easily re-organised subject to the production requirements and container dimensions.

Stage Engineering:

- The current configuration allows for 40 active Bars over the Stage area chosen from 74 potential positions.
- There are proposed 20 fast, computer controlled winches and 20 variable speed, fast chain hoists distributed stage left and right, driving the bars.

- There is an accommodation for lifts etc if necessary.

The design corresponds to European norms, i.e. could the theatre be built anywhere in the world. It can be built anywhere in the world, the initial period of engagement with a client is feasibility, where the local regulations and site requirements are taken on board.

So, talking about cost: As we know, a new built theatre complex can cost a fortune and it isn’t demountable, a relatively modest figure would be 140million US, TH2.4 as shown can be realised for considerably less that half that, and the audience member will get the same performance experience.

I am not trying to criticize the permanent, architect designed Theatres, they clearly have a lot to offer going forward. I am just saying there is more paying audience than venues , what’s needed is speculative investment and to do that one needs a cost effective product so that they can get their money back. With a revenue stream where over double the cost of the venue can be retuned in a five year period , that’ begins to look like a profitable investment.We are engaged in a number of preliminary conversations in several contries.

In conclusion, we are saying that modern, event based , fast track engineering techniques can produce innovative cost effective venues that will provide for audiences that are otherwise deprived in one way or another.

The author: Adam Wildi is project leader of the design group of “Serious Space“. For many years he has been dealing with big infrastructures such as the Olympic Games in London and Athens or big fashion shows.


BTR Ausgabe 1 2019
Rubrik: English texts, Seite 236
von Adam Wildi

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