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The Playing Field was a 450-seat theatre built for the public square in the centre of Southampton, which used the citys passion for football to draw new audiences to the theatre.

The structure itself was a hybrid, a traditional timber-and-post construction braced in bright red steel reminiscent of the aesthetics and structural strategies of traditional football stadia.

Designed so that the large stage doors could stand open throughout the day, The Playing Field created a theatrical experience both for those watching productions and for the other uses of the square. The square itself forms the stage, with banked seating on either side. The first floor accommodates a technical gallery, while stage lighting is attached to a truss structure suspended overhead.

Assemble worked with the engineers Structure Workshop to develop a framework that could be built simply and efficiently, with only a single crane used to lift structural elements into place. A repeating module was adapted to both turn the corners and span the goal openings without visibly altering the overall rhythm.

It was commissioned by the Nuffield Theatre, Southampton.

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All photos by Jim Stephenson