Liverpool's Royal Court Theatre

Liverpool. 2018

  • Project Details
  • Completion: 2018
  • Clients: Royal Court Trust

Liverpool’s Royal Court, won in open competition, is an exercise in restrained, phased reinvention. The first ‘act’ of the development revitalised the interiors of the theatre, breathing new life into the Grade II listed art deco building. The cabaret-style stall seating and the bar were remodelled, the foyer and auditorium redecorated and new circle seating, a balcony and new toilets were inserted. Act two added a weathered steel and glass-fronted multi-use Welcome Centre that wraps around the building connecting it to its lively surroundings. Front of house and offices were remodelled to create a new circle bar and toilets on the first floor. The recently completed third act has continued the improvement works to the front of house areas, creating a larger open bar at the third floor. Improvements have been made to the back of house, facilities and technical equipment. The basement studio space has also been transformed. The existing columns have been removed, opening up the space to create a brand new 150 seat studio space for comedy and music events, theatre productions, and rehearsal space for the Youth Theatre and Community Choir.


AJ Cultural Project of the Year 2018 RIBA National Award 2018 RIBA North West Region Conservation Award 2018 RIBA North West Regional Award 2018 Civic Trust Awards: Commendation 2017 AJ Retrofit - Cultural buildings: Cinemas and theatres 2016 AJ Retrofit: Overall Winner 2016 BCI Award: Building Project of the Year 2016

The Grade II Listed Royal Court Theatre has a rich history as a significant venue for national touring theatre, opera, ballet, pop music and comedy, and has been located at the heart of Liverpool’s cultural and social life for nearly 200 years.

The project began for us in late 2008 when we won the open architecture competition to refurbish and reinvent the building and is a phased development due for completion in 2014.

The scheme creates a strong vision for the theatre which results in a fully renovated interior space with new public areas, bars and facilities with improved access at ground floor level and vertical circulation throughout.

The renovation will include the addition of a new roof top bar for theatre goers and side extension to increase back of house facilities. The ground floor extension will unify floor levels to allow direct access from the public realm.

The large glazed façade to the corner of the building seeks to open up the retained brickwork as an interior space that draws in the public. This ground floor public space was inspired by the way the viewer is drawn into Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks through the distortion of perspective and the blurring of public and private within the painting.

The scheme will be delivered in four fully independent phases;

1. Connect and rationalise internal public areas. The prime corner aspect of the building will be given over entirely to public foyers/bars on each level with a vertical void connecting the spaces. Seating within the auditorium will also be improved to reflect the theatre’s ongoing transformation into a world-class venue.

2. Create a new entrance foyer. The ground floor extension will provide vital foyer space. At first floor level a reveal will be cut into the existing façade to allow a first floor terrace above the extension. Advertising will be removed off the existing brick façade and displayed within two triangular elements that relate to the Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral’s bell tower. These elements will bookend the extension.

3. Create a new rooftop venue. A new rooftop public bar will maximise the opportunity afforded by the existing building’s roof. This new public bar area will offer views across the Liverpool skyline seen through the Royal Court’s new signage. 

4. Create additional Back of House areas through the creation of a side extension for office and green room space. The extension will be clad in the same material as both the proposed ground and roof top additions – corten. This material will complement the brick façade clearly establishing existing and new elements of the theatre.

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