Playing favourites #6: The Hannah Playhouse
The Hannah Playhouse (home to Downstage Theatre) is rapidly emerging as one of the popular favourites on the Architectural Centre blog, and it's certainly been one of my favourites for a long time. It's got all that textural shuttered concrete to appeal to fans of Brutalism, and it's handled with surprising delicacy, but the chief glory is the roof.
It's hard to see from this photo, but it's a simple yet boldly faceted form that marks this important street corner in a very memorable way. When it's lit up at night, it's like a geological formation or ancient pyramid, standing out just enough from the rectilinearity of the urban grid. If only something like Courtenay Central had had the courage to express the forms of the various auditoria within, rather than hiding it all behind a box of cheap cladding, Courtenay Place would have had an architectural icon at its centre rather than an embarrassing interloper from suburbia.
The various restaurant conversions on the ground floor may have detracted from its original integrity to some extent, but they show how such a supposedly "introspective" building type as a theatre can have active edges and contribute to the urban environment (hello Circa, we're looking at you). It's an enduring delight that looks great in black and white, and it's a vital part of the city. More details and CAD plans are available on the wonderful VenueWeb.