Angles, shape and different finishes

The Crucible Theatre, Sheffield 1962

The Crucible Theatre in Sheffield was designed at the end of the 1960s, at a time when several architects were experimenting with the polygonal plan – not least Powell & Moya with their Chichester Festival Theatre of 1962. The Crucible’s plan is based on the octagonal form and its spaces are largely defined by 45° angles. Its most distinctive feature is the thrust-stage, which allows every seat to be relatively close to the performance, in a layout reminiscent of the Greek theatre. 

· Credit: John Donat / RIBA Collections

The first of a series of theatres designed by Renton Howard Wood Associates, it was built on a sloping site in the centre of Sheffield where the original street gird no longer existed. The architect therefore conceived a building that could be approached from every direction. This photograph, by John Donat highlights the circulation flow within the building, from the entrance foyer up the stairs and around the auditorium, as well as the different types of concrete surfaces employed – limestone aggregate blocks, varnished barefaced concrete walls and brightly coloured painted ceilings. The building, which has been home for more than 40 years to a successful regional theatre as well as televised snooker tournaments, gained grade II listing status during its refurbishment, completed in 2010.