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Folio: Denys Lasdun's model graveyard

The road to success was long, frustrating and dogged with opposition for London’s National Theatre


Folio Denys Lasdun model graveyard National Theatre RIBA

Designed by Denys Lasdun between 1963 and 1976, the National Theatre on London’s South Bank was plagued with funding issues, brief revisions, and a move to an entirely new site downstream, four years in. The project provoked much controversy: Prince Charles described it as a ‘clever way of building a nuclear power station in the middle of London without anyone objecting’, and by the time it was completed in 1976 – 13 years after Lasdun began – the concrete Brutalism was considered out of fashion by many. Regardless, the building was Grade II-listed in 1994 and renovated in 2015 by Haworth Tompkins, and is today widely considered one of London’s greatest.

This model graveyard is evidence of the National Theatre’s long and troubled design process. Lasdun superimposed a sketch of his National Theatre  onto the image below after it was initially rejected by the Royal Academy when he applied for election in 1991. 

Denys Lasdun's model graveyard of the National Theatre

Denys Lasdun’s model graveyard of the National Theatre

Image courtesy of the Royal Academy of Arts

This piece is featured in the AR February 2019 Failure issue – click here to purchase your copy today