St Paul's School Drama Centre and Samuel Pepys Theatre

The Drama Centre occupies an enviable position overlooking the Thames, and forms the next phase of the masterplan redevelopment of the school’s landmark site following the award-winning Science Building.

The auditorium of the Samuel Pepys Theatre sits at the heart of the Drama Centre. Four classrooms to the east serve as backstage spaces, and a double-height foyer to the north looks out over the Thames through a screen of trees.

The theatre seats 240 in its primary thrust format, or greater numbers in proscenium mode. The building is designed for teaching technical theatre arts as well as performance, with the extent of its provisions also making it suitable for touring companies.

Possibly the best school theatre in the UK today. NHA are wonderful architects who understood our needs and desires and brought them to life.
Lloyd Dorfman CBE


The whole Centre was designed in close collaboration with Edward Williams, the school’s Head of Drama, and with the theatre consultants Charcoalblue. Detailed studies of the auditorium proportions were carried out, also of the alternative layouts achievable given the primary thrust configuration. Charcoalblue’s acoustic advice lead to further tweaking of the form with the result that the performance of the auditorium has received wide praise.

A delightfully intimate theatre, with excellent acoustics and an immediate contact between performer and audience.
Mark Bailey, High Master St Paul’s School


Great care was taken to achieve excellent daylighting in all of the public and teaching areas, except for the black box of the auditorium. In the same spirit, the electric lighting was designed to give ideal conditions in the learning spaces, but to achieve a degree of sparkle in the public areas, with special attention being given to the night-time view of the foyer across the Thames.


The heavyweight cubic form of the theatre is enclosed by buff-coloured brickwork, echoing that of the Science Building. Internally, the brickwork forms the backdrop to the entrance and foyer areas. Externally, it is enlivened by a pattern of projecting headers at high level, and is offset by dark bronze-anodised window frames and canopies.

Our Team

Project Team

  • Client: St Paul's School
  • Project Management: Gardiner & Theobald
  • Cost Planning: Arcadis
  • Theatre Consultant: Charcoalblue
  • Structural Engineer: Arup
  • Services Engineer: Arup
  • Sustainability Consultant: Arup
  • Acoustician: Charcoalblue
  • Fire Engineer: Arup
  • Contractor: Prime Construction
  • Photography: Alan Williams


  • Regional Finalist: Civic Trust Awards
  • Shortlisted: Brick Awards