Royal National Theatre  

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The raw concrete and blockish form of the Royal National Theatre (1967–1976) offended British traditionalists; Charles, Prince of Wales Prince Charles compared it with a nuclear power station." --Sholem Stein

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

The Royal National Theatre, London, England, is generally known as the National Theatre and commonly as The National. Founded in 1963, it is one of the United Kingdom's two most prominent publicly funded theatre companies, alongside the Royal Shakespeare Company.

Style

The style of the National Theatre building was described by Mark Girouard as "an aesthetic of broken forms" at the time of opening. Architectural opinion was split at the time of construction. Even enthusiastic advocates of the Modern Movement such as Sir Nikolaus Pevsner have found the Béton brut concrete both inside and out overbearing. Most notoriously, Prince Charles described the building in 1988 as "a clever way of building a nuclear power station in the middle of London without anyone objecting". Sir John Betjeman, however, a man not noted for his enthusiasm for brutalist architecture, was effusive in his praise and wrote to Lasdun stating that he "gasped with delight at the cube of your theatre in the pale blue sky and a glimpse of St. Paul's to the south of it. It is a lovely work and so good from so many angles...it has that inevitable and finished look that great work does."

Despite the controversy, the theatre has been a Grade II* listed building since 1994. Although the theatre is often cited as an archetype of Brutalist architecture in England, since Lasdun's death the building has been re-evaluated as having closer links to the work of Le Corbusier, rather than contemporary monumental 1960s buildings such as those of Paul Rudolph. The carefully refined balance between horizontal and vertical elements in Lasdun's building has been contrasted favourably with the lumpiness of neighbouring buildings such as the Hayward Gallery and Queen Elizabeth Hall. It is now in the unusual situation of having appeared simultaneously in the top ten "most popular" and "most hated" London buildings in opinion surveys. A recent lighting scheme illuminating the exterior of the building, in particular the fly towers, has proved very popular, and is one of several positive artistic responses to the building. A key intended viewing axis is from Waterloo Bridge at 45 degrees head on to the fly tower of the Olivier Theatre (the largest and highest element of the building) and the steps from ground level. This view is largely obscured now by mature trees along the riverside walk but it can be seen in a more limited way at ground level.



Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Royal National Theatre" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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