Seat Theatre

Arcola Theatre Launches New Eco-Theatre Plans


At London’s City Tuesday, representatives from Arcola Theatre and sustainable design innovators Arup present plans for the creation of a new eco-theatre in Dalston, East London.

Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, said, “As world leaders gather in Copenhagen, Arcola Theatre is at the forefront of how London’s arts organisations can champion the environment. We have to take robust yet practical steps to make our city more energy efficient. This has the added benefit of playing a pivotal role in the wider redevelopment of this part of the city, making the urban realm more pleasant. Three cheers for Arcola for raising the bar.”

Developed though a feasibility study funded by London Development Agency, the project will be the UK’s first major arts venue to place environmental sustainability at the core of construction, programme and operations.

Mehmet Egen, Artistic Director and founder of Arcola Theatre said: “Our new building will include an exquisite 350 seat theatre allowing us to create an even greater and more diverse programme, building on our past nine years of success.”

Dr Ben Todd, Executive Director of Arcola Theatre, said: “Wrapped around the main stage will be dynamic spaces to accommodate our ever-growing environmental sustainability and community engagement programmes. Our aim is to create a place Da Vinci might call home where creative people across multiple disciplines drive innovation for a sustainable and equitable future.”

Global engineering and design consultancy Arup has been appointed to provide theatre and acoustical consultancy services; whilst Arup Associates, Arup’s multidisciplinary design studio, will provide an integrated architecture and engineering design. Arup’s iconic projects include the Sydney Opera House, and the Birds Nest and Water Cube stadiums for the Beijing 2008 Olympics.

Neill Woodger, director of Arup’s theatre consulting and acoustics business said: “Our task is to conceive a theatre that exemplifies sustainability. It must provide the highest levels of artistic experience, whilst being affordable to build and economical to operate. It must contribute positively to the environment and local community and lead the way in promoting the shift to more ecological lifestyles. This is the first public venue to use a sustainability framework to define the brief and conceptual design, and it will set a new level of performance in theatre design.”

The expanded Arcola Theatre will include:

  • A main house theatre seating 350 (500 standing), suitable for mid-scale theatre and opera productions
  • 150 and 80 seat black-box studio theatres, similar to those Arcola already run
  • An extensive foyer, spilling out on to the public realm, with bar/café/restaurant and informal meeting spaces
  • Incubator units for scientists and engineers developing sustainable technologies
  • A Bike Hub with storage and change facilities, close to public transport nodes
  • Public garden and growing spaces

The new Arcola Theatre will be located at the heart of Dalston close to the new Dalston Square development and a new East London Line station. The project is part of a wider London Development Agency (LDA) funded project Making Space in Dalston. This exemplary project, led by the LDA’s Design for London team, is bringing together diverse stakeholders to choose and deliver strategic improvements in public realm resources across Dalston.

Cllr Guy Nicholson, Hackney Council Cabinet Member for Regeneration and the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, said: “Hackney Council is committed to supporting Arcola’s ambition to create an innovative new eco-theatre; ensuring that Arcola continues to contribute to the cultural excitement that is Dalston.”

Project partners include:

  • Integrated Design (architecture and engineering) – Arup Associates
  • Theatre and Acoustical Consultants – Arup
  • Sustainability Consultants – Juhi Shareef Associates
  • Bar/cafe/restaurant Consultants – Ignite Hospitality Consultants
  • Project Management – Mouchel
  • Quantity Surveyors – William G Dick
  • Funders – Design for London & London Development Agency
  • Host – London Borough Hackney

Project Director, Dr Ben Todd of Arcola Theatre is one of the 2009 London Leaders for sustainability and the launch event is supported by the London Sustainable Development Commission.


More details and hi-resolution images:


Arcola Theatre was founded in 2000 by its present Artistic Director Mehmet Ergen and Executive Producer Leyla Nazli. From humble origins Arcola has grown to become an important London and UK venue serving both as receiving house and producer of its own critically acclaimed work. Arcola has strong links with the local community, delivering an extensive programme of participatory arts for all ages. Since 2007 Arcola has been working with local and international partners across arts, science and engineering to drive mass adoption of sustainable lifestyles. Arcola Theatre is a Regularly Funded Organisation of Arts Council England.

Arup is the creative force behind many of the world’s prominent building, infrastructure and industrial projects. Founded in 1946 with an enduring set of values, Arup’s unique trust ownership fosters a distinctive culture, an intellectual independence and encourages truly collaborative working.

Arup Associates is the integrated design studio of the multinational consulting engineering group Arup. Started by Sir Ove Arup more than four decades ago to develop his concept of total architecture, Arup Associates offer a radical alternative to conventional architectural practice, creating pioneering holistic design that is focused on people. The studio practices multidisciplinary design where engineers and architects work side by side in embedded teams in a single practice. Teamwork is at the core of our structure.

Mouchel is a consulting and business services group that builds great relationships with clients in the public sector and regulated industry to make a difference to customers and communities. Operations include highways, water, rail, property, housing, education, energy, management consultancy and ‘business process outsourcing’ in a wide range of disciplines. Mouchel has more than 11,000 employees, 123 offices in the UK and an audited turnover of £740.6 million. Mouchel was awarded ‘Top 20 Best Big Companies to Work For’ status in March 2008 in the annual Sunday Times rankings. In March 2008 it also achieved Two Star accreditation from awarding body Best Companies for an outstanding level of employee engagement across the company.

Juhi Shareef Associates (JSA) is a consultancy specialising in sustainability for events and the creative industries. JSA has a particular focus on the role of cultural institutions in sustainable development and has recently returned from the COP 15- related Culture Futures event, working on engaging the cultural sector in moving towards an ecological age by 2050.

Ignite Hospitality Consultants is a pioneering Hackney-based agency, providing marketing, strategy, branding, design and concept development for hotels, restaurants and bars in the UK and internationally. A collective of consultants under one roof provide support to Start-Up or Grown-Up hospitality operators in driving sales, growth and improving efficiency.

William G Dick Partnership LLP is an Chartered Quantity Surveying practice. Established for over 25 years, the practice prides itself in providing clients with an enthusiastic and pro-active service.

London Borough of Hackney is working with Transport for London, the London Development Agency and local partners in the regeneration of Dalston. Work is centred on Dalston Square – a new public square bordered by a new East London Line Overground station, new shops, new homes and a new library and public archive. Across Dalston a programme of public realm improvements will integrate new developments with the existing town centre, and enhance the cultural mix.

London Development Agency (LDA) works to improve the quality of life for all Londoners – investing in jobs, skills and growth. In Dalston, the LDA has worked with the London Borough of Hackney, Transport for London, architects and developers to capitalise on the East London Line extension. The new housing developments around Dalston Junction will create a new public square and other facilities. The London Development Agency – through the Making Space in Dalston project led by its Design for London team – will invest a further £750,000 in improving the wider public realm in Dalston; this includes the feasibility study for Arcola’s future theatre.

London Sustainable Development Commission was established in 2002 to advise the Mayor of London on making London a benchmark for sustainable cities. The Commission is made up of a individual experts from the economic, social, environmental and London governance sectors. The Commission’s London Leaders programme brings together London’s leading lights in sustainability, to deliver change, and inspire others to do the same.

Arts Council England works to get great art to everyone by championing, developing and investing in artistic experiences that enrich people’s lives. As the national development agency for the arts, we support a range of artistic activities from theatre to music, literature to dance, photography to digital art, and carnival to crafts. Great art inspires us, brings us together and teaches us about ourselves, and the world around us. In short, it makes life better. Between 2008 and 2011, we will invest £1.3 billion of public money from government and a further £0.3 billion from the National Lottery to create these experiences for as many people as possible across the country.

Go to Arcola Energy

Arcola Theatre Relocates and Renews

Reprinted from Building Design: “UK’s first carbon-neutral theatre planned for Hackney” by Elizabeth Hopkirk, September 9, 2009

The Arcola Theatre in Hackney aims to relocate to a 2,000sq m site next to Dalston Junction station and create a 350-seat theatre built of sustainable materials including straw bales and doors salvaged from skips.

Engineer Arup has given 18 months worth of pro bono work for the proposal while the London Development Agency has awarded a £60,000 for a feasibility study subject to Hackney Council approving the site.

The overall concept, which can be scaled up or down according to how much money is raised, includes an expanded main theatre with two smaller studios, an eco café, gym, learning centre and park.

A key element is an enterprise centre with offices and laboratories for entrepreneurs and technology and product design firms.

Arcola chief executive Ben Todd said the feasibility study could be completed by December, with work on the new theatre starting in 2010 and completing in 2012.

Todd, who trained as an engineer, said: “The theatre will literally be built from straw bales, rendered to pass fire regs and be weather-proof.

“Doors from old schools and hospitals that don’t match are a nice example of the reuse, recycle attitude and are important to the texture. If we end up using steel and if most of the project comes after 2012, it would be a nice idea to recycle some of the Olympic stadia.”

Hackney Council is due to discuss the plans next week.

Go to the Green Theater Initiative