Enveloping disused railway arches, ‘Merchant Theatre’ aims to look beyond the stage and towards theatre construction, production, and dispersion within Glasgow.
With a current political agenda to design safer streets, the proposal is located within Glasgow’s hidden city of back lanes, specifically the site enclosed by Merchant Lane, Bridgegate, and Ship bank Lane. ‘Merchant Theatre’ attempts to marry the existing railway arches with a new mechanical grid insertion; the exterior form is the product of architectural contrast. Inspired by the works of ‘Archigram’ and ‘Cedric Price’, one might approach the architecture and be reminded of Glasgow’s historic shipping docks. The utilitarian design and exposed structure nod to the psychogeography of Glasgow’s back lanes, ‘Merchant Theatre’ does not hide graffiti, it celebrates it, it does not mask the decayed, it elevates it. The design evolved into the form of a culture factory. The honest character of the site is reflected through the porosity of the building, the arches become glazed portals that reveal the theatrical mechanics within. Entering through the existing structure, the architecture creates a moment where you pass through the old to get to the new. While the ‘front of house’ is the human hub, the backstage is a well-oiled machine. Inspired by ‘product assembly lines’ the rehearsal spaces, green rooms, set/prop/costume workshops all interconnect spatially to the:
- Theatre stage.
- Workshop deliveries.
- Railway loading above (Storage & Crane).
In the evening, the architecture transforms into a cultural beacon. Merchant theatre does not simply act as a stage but as a creative vessel. If the performance industry is to bounce back in a post-covid world, design, technology, and innovation are the answer. That and some more great original productions made in Glasgow. Culture and aesthetics invariably go hand in hand.