A purpose-built theatre in a modern monumental style, constructed between 1979-82 to the designs of Dundee-based architects Andrew Nicoll and Ric Russell (initially of Robbie and Wellwood, later Nicoll Russell Studios). Extended by the City of Dundee District Council Architects Department in the early 1990s, and by Nicoll Russell Studios in the late 1990s and early 2000s. The design is contextual within a historic urban square and comprises deconstructed Modernist geometrical forms, with elements of Brutalist materiality and classical monumentality. The building remains in use as a theatre and occupies a square site on the west corner of Tay Square, in the centre of Dundee.
The composition consists of a large concrete blockwork cube framing a double-height glazed entrance elevation, with an angled, metal-clad fly tower rising behind. The interior contains a 455-seat auditorium, with two levels of glazed foyers tucked beneath its stepped underside. The fan-shaped plan of the auditorium has been used as a decorative motif throughout the building, from the shape of the windows and ventilator grills, to pieces of internal decoration. There are two large extensions to the north and southwest corners, which are built in a similar style and materials.
The main (northeast) elevation comprises a large, double-height glazed entrance, framed by a post-and-lintel arrangement of three concrete blockwork components. The expanse of frameless glazing to the centre has minimal support and the large horizontal section of concrete blockwork appears to float above the entrance foyers below. The glazing is divided horizontally by a curved concrete stair, which cantilevers out from a vertical concrete core. The underside of the stair creates an external shelter and the exposed ends of the steps feature the decorative fan motif of the auditorium. Parts of the elevation are angled, splaying outwards into Tay Square.
The northwest elevation has an angled, three-storey, four-bay projection to the left with an overhanging second floor. The central part of the elevation comprises a full-height extension that projects northwards (built in the late 1990s and raised in 2002-04). It has a chamfered northwest corner with a cantilevered corner window on the top floor, and a large double-height stage door with the fan-shaped motif expressed in its bracing. The remaining right side of the elevation has advancing and recessed bays with tall corner windows.
The southwest (rear) elevation is blank. The south corner comprises a full-height extension dating from around 1990. The ground floor level has blockwork walls with a chamfered central bay and a recessed clerestory. On top is a large double-height projecting pod with large, frameless corner windows, black metal cladding to the walls and a piended roof. The southeast elevation is largely blank with a continuous central clerestory and two large decorative ventilator grills in the fan-shaped motif.
The walls are largely buff-coloured concrete blockwork. The windows are either frameless or have heavy, vertical pole mouldings in dark-stained timber. The building is made up of multiple blocks of varying heights, which all have different roofs. Generally, these are flat but those to the corner blocks and fly tower have piended elements in dark corrugated steel. The roof over the auditorium follows the fan-shaped plan of the auditorium. That of the north wing (2004) is pyramidal with a skylight to the apex.
The interior was seen in 2021. The layout of the building was partially altered by the changes and additions that took place from the late 1980s until the early 2000s. There has been some refurbishment of the interior decorative scheme, particularly the front of house areas, but overall, this largely involved the soft furnishings and floor coverings. On balance there is a high degree of survival of original fixtures and fittings.
The building's layout is primarily configured around a stage at the centre of the plan with a fly tower above and various ancillaries below and to either side. The auditorium is raked with a geometric, fan-shaped plan-form that radiates out from the stage and is set at an angle to Tay Square. The open-plan front of house area is spread over two levels and is housed beneath the stepped underside of the auditorium. It is fully glazed to the elevation fronting Tay Square. The circular layout of the public areas of the building begin from the main entrance into the box office foyer and the ground floor restaurant. A curved staircase and lift (a later addition) then lead to the upper foyer, which contains a café/bar and exhibition space, with walkways taking visitors to the auditorium. There is a large dance studio and workshop in the north wing (added in the late 1990s and raised in 2004), a paint shop and wardrobe store to the west, and a studio and rehearsal room in the south corner (added around 1990).
The interior is largely functional but meticulously consistent in material and design with elements of refined detailing which contribute to how the spaces are used and experienced. There are exposed surfaces and pared back finishes throughout that include pale blockwork walls and ceilings of struck concrete, which are contrasted by dark-stained timber slats with exposed beams and dark handrails and balustrades. There is a strong geometric form throughout the interior, such as the angle of the beams over the café counter (which was reinforced by the striped pattern of original carpet, which has been replaced). The underside of the auditorium is stepped, and the upper foyer has balustrades of glass and metal (which replaced the original, full-height balustrades of thin vertical metal rods). The ceiling and walls of the auditorium are black. There is some decorative detailing which is expressed as the fan-shaped motif, appearing on light fittings, beams, doors and handrail fixtures. In the backstage areas some original features survive, including built-in furniture and signage, some of which incorporates the fan-shaped motif.
The Dundee Repertory Theatre (the Dundee Rep) was originally formed in 1939 and is one of the oldest surviving repertory companies in Scotland. The original theatre was in the Forester's Hall on Nicholson Street, but this burnt down in 1963. Following the fire, the Rep operated from a marquee before moving to the converted Dudhope Church on Lochee Road. However, it was acknowledged that a long-term, purpose-built theatre was required. (Scran)
Initially, proposals to convert part of the Caird Hall (designed by James Thomson, 1914-23) into a 500-seat theatre were discussed, but this scheme was too costly and was postponed in 1967. A site on Tay Square was then donated by the University of Dundee, with a joint theatre and multi-purpose hall being proposed. However, as funding was not forthcoming, the University went ahead and constructed Bonar Hall between 1975-77 to the designs of Gillespie Kidd and Coia (see separate listing LB52165). The proposed theatre site on Tay Square was then used for parking and accommodated around 50 cars.
In 1973-74, plans were drawn up for a new theatre on the Tay Square site but these were rejected on the basis of cost, which due to high inflation, had risen from £750,000 in January 1974 to an estimated £1.6 million the end of that year. In 1975, two alternative design options were considered. One was for a prefabricated building which had a 30-year lifespan and an estimated cost of £552,000. The other option was for a permanent structure, which had an estimated cost of £556,000, plus fees (Fair, 2018: p. 158). The latter option, which was designed by the local architectural firm of Robbie and Wellwood (in which Richard Russell and Andrew Nicoll were partners at that time), was eventually selected.
Due to the inflation rates of the period, the design was repeatedly stripped back as a way of preventing the costs from spiralling. The project brief was reconsidered with the aim now being 'the minimum necessary accommodation and standard of finish' (Scottish Theatre Archive). This included a reduction in the capacity of the auditorium, from 650 seats to 460 seats. This led to a number of key elements, such as the workshop and fly tower being removed from the design but many of these were eventually reinstated into the final design.
Funding for the new building came from local, national and European sources, including from the Scottish Arts Council (which was part of the Arts Council of Great Britain,1965-85), the Scottish Tourist Board, local councils and the new European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) (Fair, 2018: p. 158; The Stage, 1 April 1982, p.32). It was perceived that the new theatre would make an important contribution and focal point for the social and cultural life of the city. As Dundee's industrial sector was in sharp decline, it was also hoped that it would act as an economic stimulus by helping to change perceptions of the city.
Dundee Rep is a repertory theatre, or 'rep'. These are subsidised, non-profit theatres, usually with a stable company of actors that perform a mix of classic and new productions (Fair, 2018: p. 3). The repertory theatre movement had gathered pace in the interwar period and evolved in the regions, supporting local actors and writers and introducing audiences to a wide variety of theatre at an affordable price (Theatres Trust). Between 1950 and the mid-1980s, this type of theatre was favoured by the funding bodies and came to be the dominant form of regional theatre in Britain (Fair, 2018: p. 3. 21). As a result, the previous commercial touring circuits went into decline due to lack of funding and rise of TV ownership.
Construction of Dundee Rep began in January 1979 and the foundation stone was laid by the renowned actor, and first rector of the University of Dundee, Sir Peter Ustinov on 5 May 1979 (Telfer). The work almost stopped due to rising prices and inflation but an additional £200,000 was raised through a public appeal and the building was eventually completed in 1982 (Telfer). The present building was opened on 8 April 1982 with a final cost of £1.2 million. The original footprint of the building is shown on the Ordnance Survey map of 1986.
The design was highly celebrated. It received a civic commendation from The Civic Trust Award in 1984 and was awarded the RIBA Architecture Award in 1986 (Dundee Courier, 18 November 1987, p.4; Dundee Courier, 3 October 1986, p.5). In 2016, as part of the RIAS' Festival of Architecture, it was voted one of Scotland's top ten buildings of the last 100 years (ArchDaily). It was also described as 'a bravura composition of modern architecture' (Scotland: Building for The Future, p.78) and 'an outstanding example of good modern architecture' by the Royal Fine Art Commission for Scotland (Dundee Courier, 30 July 1991, p. 10).
The local authority took a stake in the building when it stepped in to prevent the theatre from closing down in the 1980s. Between 1988 and 1992, the building was extended and partially altered by the Architects Department of the City of Dundee District Council (project architect, Colin Wishart). This was to primarily facilitate its growing community and education department, which included the Rep Dance Company and the Community Dance Team (Dundee Courier, 27 June 1990, p.8).
The most notable change was the addition of the large extension to the southwest corner, where there was previously a small amphitheatre between the Rep and the Bonar Hall (Dundee Courier, 11 August 1988, p.5). This extension was built to house the City Festival Headquarters and was noted, on its opening in 1990 (Dundee Courier, 27 June 1990: p.8), to include a rehearsal room and a dance studio, as well as additional wardrobe space, and essential backstage facilities. The work also involved the excavation of an area to the rear and under the stage for use as a dance studio, but this suffered problems with water ingress and has since been altered to house offices and stores (information from Nicoll Russell Studios).
From the mid 1990s until the mid 2000s the theatre underwent a multi-phase programme of refurbishment works to improve the auditorium, upgrade the facilities and aid accessibility (The Stage, 3 December 1998, p.4; The Stage, 12 August 2004, p. 4). The work was carried out by Nicoll Russell Studios and involved stripping the fabric back to the original and making upgrades to the services and some of the finishes. An extension to the workshop was added to the north during the late 1990s, which involved the excavation of the existing courtyard space. This was designed with enough strength in the roof structure to support a further extension, which was built between 2002 and 2004 (Nicoll Russell Studios). This contains a large dance studio, which had been previously located under the stage, as well as dressing rooms and ancillary accommodation for the Scottish Dance Theatre (Nicoll Russell Studios).
Statement of Special Interest
Dundee Repertory Theatre, meets the criteria of special architectural or historic interest for the following reasons:
- For its exceptional architectural design, carefully considered plan-form and bespoke detailing. It is an award-winning theatre design of considerable architectural quality that is a distinguished example within its building type in Scotland.
- The building has been altered and extended but the changes are in keeping with its original design intent, particularly to the main elevation.
- For its relative rarity within Scotland and as one of three major examples of new, purpose-built theatres that were built in the country as part of the post-war theatre building boom that swept across Britain from the 1950s to the mid 1980s.
- Its highly contextual design complements its historic setting, which remains substantially unchanged.
It aids our understanding of the development of civic life, society and culture in Scotland in the later 20th century.
Dundee Repertory Theatre is an exceptional example of a late-20th century theatre design and is of special interest for its design quality, plan form, use of materials and authenticity.
The building successfully combines a number of fundamental aspirations of the concept of a 'modern' theatre in design and function, which first emerged during the 1950s and 60s and challenged the established model. These continued to evolve over the second half of the 20th century reflecting architectural fashions, the changes in the attitudes towards theatre and the increasing complexities of theatre design and production.
Dundee Rep is a substantial civic building characterised by an informal arrangement of bold, monumental geometric forms and massing. This gives the building a landmark quality and a sense of dignity that reflects its civic importance as a cultural and social focal point. As Fair states (2015: p. 144), this represents a key discourse during the post-war period, of how modern civic and public buildings could achieve a level of grandeur and gravitas, without the need for overt ornamentation. The effect was further achieved at Dundee Rep through the informal post and lintel arrangement of the main elevation, which is rooted in early classicism. This was commonly used in British theatre design during the post-war period, as it helped to evoke the more traditional forms of public and civic architecture (Fair, 2015: p.11).
The monumentality of the modern, almost Brutalist design of Dundee Rep in part reflects earlier trends in British theatre design of the late 1960s and 1970s, as seen in examples like The Crucible, Sheffield (1971) and the Royal National Theatre, London (1976). However, these were sometimes criticised for being too solid and impenetrable, particularly from the mid 1970s when context became an increasingly important factor, and as the idea of more transient or experimental theatres spaces came to the fore (Fair, 2015: p. 144).
At Dundee Rep the monumentality of its form is offset by the use of expansive glazing to the centre of the main elevation, which creates a strong sense of openness and lightness. The almost frameless glass allows uninterrupted views out into the square, thereby making the theatre part of the street and vice versa. Acting as a kind of shop window, this serves to welcome people into the building and is particularly effective at night when the interior is lit up. The open effect is exaggerated by the splayed arrangement of the main elevation, which reaches out into the square and connects with the pedestrian walkway across the square (added by the local authority in the late 1990s).
The sense of welcome and openness achieved at Dundee Rep was a key aim of post-war theatre design, as a means of increasing revenue by enticing people into the theatre's bars and restaurants and exhibition spaces outside performance hours. It also helped create a more accessible space, thus breaking down the social inequalities which Fair (2020) notes was associated with the segregation of pre-war theatre spaces.
While monumental in scale, much of the design of Dundee Rep was directly influenced by the need for economy. This was a common theme of new theatres built in the post-war period, as they were subsidised through public funds, but the budget varied considerably between the regions and from project to project. There was a particular need for efficiency in the design of Dundee Rep due to the high inflation rates of the late 1970s, and the architects were both efficient and highly resourceful. For example, the handrails and dressing room tables also function as electrical conduits, meaning that only one fitting was required rather than two (Nicoll Russell Studios). Design features such as this allowed the necessary functional requirements of a theatre building to be met within the tight budget. They also resulted in a bespoke design that sets Dundee Rep apart from standard post-war theatre buildings.
Dundee Rep is characterised by the use of rough, inexpensive materials combined with minimal decorative detailing and exposed structural elements to both the interior and exterior. These were chosen as they were cost effective solutions to the brief, but through careful handling and finish, they give the building a sleek modern appearance whilst providing textural interest.
Dundee Rep also benefits from flourishes of good detailing to functional fixtures and fittings, such as the playful fan-shape of the auditorium plan, which is used as a motif throughout the building. As noted by Baxter et al. (2016), this honesty of materials and minimal use of well-detailed decorative elements were key features of the Modernist design ethos that stemmed from the Arts and Crafts movement of the late 19th century. The attention to detail and the careful choice of materials and textures at Dundee Rep reflects the care and skill of the designers and is of special interest in design terms.
The plan form of Dundee Rep is of special architectural interest, reflecting the combination of many of the aspirations of new post-war theatres such as openness and accessibility, as well as more formal Modernist design principles. The efficient arrangement and geometry of the plan form is key to the success of the building and was largely dictated by the restrictions of the small site. The layout is based on the journey of the audience from the square, to the entrance via the foyer, up the stairs to the bar and across walkways into the auditorium. The open-plan and communal nature of the public spaces is in sharp contrast to the segregation of foyers, entrances and facilities in pre-war theatres.
The key principle of the interior, and the overall ethos of modern theatre design, was focused on visitor experience and the need to create intimacy between the audience and the actors (Fair, 2018: p. 211). The main focus of the building is therefore the auditorium, which is set at an angle at the centre of the building and is fully visible from the square. Its layout and design embody the functionalism of modern auditoria, which sought to provide equally good seating and acoustics for everyone (Fair, 2018: p. 216).
As noted in the Application for Designation (2020), the way intimacy was achieved through the design of the auditorium of Dundee Rep, is quite distinctive from other contemporary examples, both in Scotland and the wider UK. The auditorium of Dundee Rep encourages a closer relationship between the audience and the actors through the combined use of a thrust stage and an invisible proscenium arch (the frame surrounding the stage). As noted by Fair (2018: p. 178), this was reflective of post-war rethinking which debated that the traditional proscenium arch was a barrier between the audience and the actor. It was argued that by removing it, or paring it back, the experience of watching theatre was less passive, thus giving it an advantage over TV and film.
The invisible proscenium arch was achieved at Dundee Rep by having the walls and ceiling of the auditorium forming the opening around the stage, which could be narrowed or expanded as required. As at Leicester's Haymarket Theatre (1973), it was combined with a projecting forestage. This allowed greater connection with the audience and the actors whilst maintaining the scenic possibilities afforded by the proscenium arch stage (Fair, 2018 pp. 211-12). This emphasis on flexibility within the design of the stage and auditorium at Dundee Rep, reflects the new trends in theatre production that emerged during the later 1970s and 80s.
Intimacy was further achieved at Dundee Rep through the use of low blockwork walls to the side and part way up the raked seating, which were originally lit by neon tubes. Despite the loss of the original neon lights, the walls remain a prominent feature that contrasts with the darkness of the auditorium walls. It was intended that the audience for smaller shows would be concentrated within the front rows, rather than being spread across the whole auditorium. They are a unique feature of Dundee Rep that create a greater sense of intimacy within the space. (20th Century Society; Fair, 2018: p.211-12).
As noted in the Application for Designation (2020), the backstage areas of Dundee Rep are characteristically plain. However, they form an important part of the original design concept and many original features survive, such as built-in furniture and signage. These functional spaces also serve to distinguish the Rep from earlier theatres, like Eden Court in Inverness, which were largely touring venues and therefore did not have such facilities.
The interior of Dundee Rep is largely functional in nature, as was typical of theatre design throughout the post-war period due to the need for economy. Auditoria also required muted colours and a lack of ornament in order to maintain a uniform darkness during performances. The interior of Dundee Rep is of special interest for its bespoke detailing and careful choice of materials and texture, which achieves an effect of richness that was often lacking in post-war theatres.
The architects of the building, Richard Russell and Andrew Nicoll, were partners in Robbie and Wellwood, the company originally responsible for the design of the building. Around a year prior to the completion of Dundee Rep they formed Nicoll Russell Studios and the engagement was transferred to them. This project was the first for the practice, which is highly regarded and has gone on to design a large variety of other award-winning buildings. These include the White Top Centre in Dundee (1992-94), the An Lanntair Arts Centre in Stornoway (2005) and the new Byre Theatre for St Andrews in 2002. The practice continues to be involved in works at Dundee Rep.
Dundee Rep has undergone a series of refurbishments and extensions over its history. Some of the most notable changes have been to the layout and decorative scheme of the front of house areas. However, the changes and additions that have been made throughout the building are largely in keeping with the scale and ethos of the original design. The robust character of the building combined with the architectural continuity of the changes made to it, means that these contribute to the overall character and development of the building.
Dundee Rep is characterised by a bold yet contextual, modernist design that compliments its historic setting and creates a sense of character and festivity through playful detailing and use of materials. It is more than just a functional building, as all aspects of the design and execution are carefully considered to create an innovative building that is an outstanding example of modern theatre design, both in Scotland and within the context of the UK.
Dundee Rep occupies a small plot on the west side of Tay Square, a small urban square located to the west of South Tay Street. Together with the nearby Contemporary Arts Centre by Richard Murphy Architects (1999), the buildings form the focal point of the Arts Quarter within the wider University Conservation Area.
The area's historic setting is largely retained and is characterised by rows of fine, three and four-storey townhouses on South Tay Street, Nethergate and Tay Square. These date from the late 18th century and are listed at category A and B. The University Campus defines much of the setting to the rear, combining earlier buildings and street patterns with large-scale, purpose-built university buildings dating from the 19th and 20th century, and landscaped paths and courtyards. The Beaux-Arts style Scrymgeour Building (1915), listed category B (LB25269), and the Bonar Hall (1975), listed category B (LB52165), lie to the immediate rear of the Dundee Rep. The tall and narrow form of the University Tower Building (1955-61) to the west, which is listed at category B (LB51058), provides a contrast to the lower, horizontal form of Dundee Rep and the Bonar Hall.
There has been some later infill development to the immediate north and south but this has not impacted the overall setting of the theatre. The square was altered in the mid to late 1990s by the local authority, who installed decorative railings and a sculptural banner to advertise the theatre's shows. A new pedestrian route and an external lighting scheme were created as part of these works, leading across the square to the theatre entrance. This serves to draw people towards the theatre, exaggerating the welcoming effect of its main elevation and visually connecting it to the square, particularly at night.
Dundee Rep has a significant presence within Tay Square but it does not over-dominate its surroundings. The choice of buff coloured concrete blockwork and the angled grey metal cladding of the roof emulates the ashlar stonework and pitched slate roofs of the neighbouring Georgian terraces on Tay Square. This contextualism represents the increasing concern for 'place' that emerged from the mid 1970s, as a reaction against the Modernist or Formalist, large-scale civic plans of previous decades.
The design quality of the theatre contributes to the varied urban character of the immediate setting, and that of the wider conservation area. It forms part of a cultural quarter with other nearby arts venue that include the Dundee Contemporary Arts Centre and the recent V&A Museum (2018). It is therefore of special interest under this heading.
Age and rarity
Theatres are an important part of Scotland's cultural and social history and are among some of the finest and most prominent buildings in our towns and cities. Their design is non-standardised and complex, particularly as they became increasingly specialist and contextual from the 1960s and 70s onwards.
Theatres which are listed range from early examples such as the Theatre Royal in Dumfries, which was opened in 1792 and is listed category B (LB26341), to the grand buildings of the Victorian and Edwardian eras, which are rich with elaborate decoration and plush interiors like the Tivoli Theatre, Aberdeen, built in 1872 and listed category A (LB20333) and the King's Theatre in Glasgow, built in 1904 and listed category A (LB32963). Later theatres, which are notable examples for their period and survive predominantly in their original form, may also be listed. Such examples include the Civic Theatre in Motherwell, which dates from 1964-69 and is listed at category B (LB52545), and the Eden Court Theatre in Inverness, which was completed in 1976 and is listed category A (LB49959).
Purpose-built theatres are not a prolific building type when compared to buildings such as churches, libraries and schools, and many have been significantly altered or demolished (Fair, 2015: p. 4).
Between the late 1950s and the mid 1980s, Britain experienced a boom in the design and construction of new theatres, with around 70 major examples built over this period (Lecture by Fair, A. 2020). However, relatively few of these new theatres were constructed in Scotland.
The arts, and therefore theatres, were seen to be an essential public service for 'modern' urban living. As a result, new theatres were given a place within the core of the modern built environment and their construction was subsidised by public funds. As these were now public rather than commercial projects, the design of these modern theatres was very different from those of the pre-war decades, or those of the Edwardian and Victorian eras. Their design is largely based on the principles of pragmatism and rational planning, reflecting the transformative social and cultural aspirations of modern Britain during this period. (Lecture by Fair, A. 2020).
A large number of new theatres were built in the 1960s and early 70s, particularly in England. Notable examples in Scotland include the Civic Theatre in Motherwell (see above) and the Brunton Theatre in Musselburgh (1969-71), which were both built as part of larger civic complexes. However, by the 1970s there was a call for more fluid or temporary theatres, which was a reaction against the permanent monumentality that prevailed in the theatre designs of the 1960s and 70s, such as the National in London (1976). The pace of construction began to slow after the mid 1970s but new theatres continued to be built across Britain, well into the mid 1980s.
The 1970s marked a key period for new theatre design in Scotland, and it was during this time that the design for Dundee Rep was conceived and developed. Although ambitious plans for large-scale theatres in Glasgow and Edinburgh had been developed in the 1960s, these proved too costly for the local authorities and were never realised (Fair, 2018: pp.150-54). Dundee Rep is one three major examples that were built in Scotland during the later post-war boom-period, which include Eden Court in Inverness (1976), and Pitlochry Festival Theatre (1981).
Many of the new theatres built during Britain's theatre building boom were repertory, or 'rep', theatres like Dundee. This type of theatre was favoured by the funding bodies and rose to dominate those built in the regions between 1950 and the mid-1980s (Fair, 2018: p. 3, 21). Across Britain, many of these reps occupied new theatre buildings, but a large number now function as commercial touring houses. Dundee Rep is of special interest as a rare and outstanding example of a purpose-built repertory theatre that remains in its original use.
Dundee Rep, along with notable examples such the Theatre Royal, Plymouth (1982) and the West Yorkshire Playhouse (1984-85), was among the last theatres in Britain to be built under funding provided by the UK Arts Council, which ended in 1984. This was because the new Conservative government believed that the arts should operate in more obviously commercial ways (Fair, 2015: p. 159). Over the next decade the trend in Scotland was largely towards the extension or refurbishment of existing theatres, such as Edinburgh's Festival Theatre (1994), or the creation of new theatre spaces within existing buildings, such as at the Tron (mid 1990s) and the Tramway (1991), which are both in Glasgow. The Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh (1992) is an example a new purpose-built theatre that was constructed in Scotland after 1984.
Due to severe inflation of building costs, industrial unrest and changes in funding, relatively few public buildings were built in Scotland, or the UK, during the late 1970s and early 1980s. Dundee Rep is a later example within the context of its type but is distinguished as an exceptional purpose-built example of post-war theatre design in Scotland. It is one of three key examples built in Scotland during this boom period in theatre-building and its design reflects the civic, social and artistic aspirations of modern theatre design during the late 20th century.
Social historical interest
Social historical interest is the way a building contributes to our understanding of how people lived in the past, and how our social and economic history is shown in a building and/or in its setting.
Theatres are an important part of our cultural heritage and help illustrate the social and economic development of towns and cities across Scotland. Theatres of the post-war period can have particular social historical interest as they were often multipurpose spaces that also acted as community and social hubs with public facilities.
Dundee Repertory Theatre illustrates the wider post-war trend of the emergence and development of publicly subsidised theatres being considered a key part of civic life. As Fair notes (Lecture, 2020), it was believed that these new cultural centres could transform society by stimulating people's minds and uniting them with a shared sense of civic identity. Prior to this, the opportunity for enjoyment and appreciation of the arts was largely dictated by wealth. It was felt that theatre had the potential to transform people's views and lead to self-improvement, and therefore should be made accessible to all.
The ethos under which these theatres were conceived, funded and designed illustrates the shared vision of modern Britain, in which social improvement, civic pride and economic stimulation could be brought about by design. Dundee Repertory Theatre is a later example of this type and represents a culmination of post-war ideas about the design of modern theatres. It also reflects the changing attitudes of the mid 1970s and 80s about how theatre should be housed and performed, as well as the wider architectural debates of the period which moved away from Modernist solutions towards a greater concern for historic setting and place.
Today, the Dundee Rep is among the top regional theatres in the UK, with an average audience of over 70,000 people a year and it attracts a very broad cross-section of the local population in terms of age and social background (Telfer, University of Glasgow). It is only one of a very small number of repertory theatres (resident companies) remaining in the UK. This adds to its special interest under this heading.
Association with people or events of national importance
There is no association with a person or event of national importance.
As noted in the Application for Designation, a number of prominent actors and directors have been associated with Dundee Rep's present theatre building. These have included Robert Robertson (who was artistic director 1976-92 and is well-known for his role as pathologist Dr Stephen Andrews in the STV series Taggart), as well as David Tennant, Alan Cumming and Joanna Lumley. The theatre is unusual in that it still has a stable resident company of actors, something which few other Repertory theatres now have.
Canmore: http://canmore.org.uk/ CANMORE ID 185439
Ordnance Survey National Grid Map NO3929NE – B (revised 1968, published 1968) 1:1,250. Southampton: Ordnance Survey.
Ordnance Survey Plan (published 1986) 1:1,250 Southampton: Ordnance Survey.
Dundee Courier, 3 October 1986, p.5.
Dundee Courier, 20 October 1987, p.5.
Dundee Courier, 18 November 1987, p.4.
Dundee Courier, 11 August 1988, p.5.
Dundee Courier, 27 June 1990, p.8.
Dundee Courier, 30 July 1991, p. 10
Scottish Theatre Archive, Bb Box 1/4, Maurice Cantley to Robert Robertson, 1 June 1978 in Fair, A (2018) Modern Playhouses, p. 158.
The Stage, 1 April 1982, p.32.
The Stage, 9 October 1986, p.36.
The Stage, 3 December 1998, p.4.
The Stage, 12 August 2004, p. 4.
Baxter, N. and Sinclair (eds.), (2016) Scotstyle, 100 Years of Scottish Architecture (1916-2015), Glasgow: Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland. pp. 152-153.
Findlay, B. (ed.) (1998) A History of Scottish Theatre Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, pp. 270, 280, 293.
Fair, A. (2018) Modern Playhouses: An Architectural History of Britain's New Theatres, 1945-1985 Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 3, 146-149, 150-54, 155-57, 158-60, 164-68, 171, 173-74, 177-178, 186-89, 209-212, 215-21, 230, 261-63.
Fair, A. (ed.) (2015) Setting the Scene: Perspectives on Twentieth-Century Theatre Architecture Farnham: Ashgate Publishing, pp. 4, 7-9, 11-14, 103, 126-27, 134, 136-37, 144-45, 149, 153.
Fair, A. (2019) Play On - Contemporary Theatre Architecture in Britain London: Lund Humphries.
Gifford J. (2012) The Buildings of Scotland – Dundee and Angus, New Haven and London: Yale University Press, pp. 165-166.
Glendinning M., MacInnes, R. and MacKechnie, A. (2002) A History of Scottish Architecture from the Renaissance to the Present Day, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. pp. 489.
Historic Scotland (2010) Scotland: Building for the Future – Essays on the Architecture of the Post-war Era. pp. 16-17, 77-79.
20th Century Society Building of the Month, March 2020, Repertory Theatre, Dundee https://c20society.org.uk/building-of-the-month/dundee-repertory-theatre#dismiss-cookie-notice [accessed 26/08/2021]
Blackwood, D., Moodie, C., O'Donnell, E. and Holt, J. Two Theatres in Scotland at Pitlochry and Dundee in ARUP Journal, 18, no. 1 (April 1983) pp. 12-17
https://www.arup.com/perspectives/publications/the-arup-journal/section/the-arup-journal-1983-issue-1 [accessed 26/08/2021]
Dictionary of Scottish Architects, Dundee Corporation Architectural Dpt (later City of Dundee District Council Architects Dept, Dundee City Council)
http://www.scottisharchitects.org.uk/architect_full.php?id=201312 [accessed 05/11/2021]
Dictionary of Scottish Architects, Dundee Repertory Theatre
http://www.scottisharchitects.org.uk/building_full.php?id=403164 [accessed 26/08/2021]
Dictionary of Scottish Architects, Nicoll Russell Studios
http://www.scottisharchitects.org.uk/architect_full.php?id=401369 [accessed 26/08/2021]
Dundee Rep and Scottish Dance Theatre, Annual Review 2019-20
https://docplayer.net/197692050-2019-annual-r-e-v-i-e-w.html [accessed 10/11/2021]
Dundee Repertory Theatre, Application for Designation
https://portal.historicenvironment.scot/decision/500002941 [accessed 05/11/2021]
Historic Scotland (2015) Acting with Confidence – Scotland's Theatre Architecture, pp. 44-47.
https://www.historicenvironment.scot/archives-and-research/publications/publication/?publicationid=d2d372e3-d88c-48ed-8286-a57100c230ba [accessed 26/08/2021]
Theatres Trust, Dundee Rep
https://database.theatrestrust.org.uk/resources/theatres/show/3170-dundee-repertory-theatre [accessed 26/08/2021]
Scotland's Top 10 Buildings of the Century Revealed, ArchDaily
https://www.archdaily.com/793934/scotlands-top-10-buildings-of-the-century-revealed [accessed 24/10/2021]
University of Glasgow, Scottish Theatre Archive, Dundee Repertory Theatre
https://www.gla.ac.uk/myglasgow/library/files/special/collections/STA/Collections/dundee/index.html [accessed 26/08/2021]
Scran, Dundee Repertory Theatre (1975), © Archive Services, University of Dundee. Licensor www.scran.ac.uk https://www.scran.ac.uk/database/record.php?usi=000-000-564-263-C&scache=3r15g1hz25&searchdb=scran [accessed 26/08/2021]
Telfer, C. University of Glasgow Library Blog, Dundee Repertory Theatre: A Much Desired Building.
https://universityofglasgowlibrary.wordpress.com/2019/05/22/dundee-repertory-theatre-a-much-desired-building/ [accessed 26/08/2021]
Modern Playhouses: Theatre Architecture in Britain, 1945-85, Lecture by Fair, A. [16/09/2020]
Information provided by project architect, Professor Richard Russell OBE of Nicoll Russell Studios (2021).
Floor Plans (1998 and 2021) courtesy of Dundee Repertory Theatre.
Information provided by the Theatres Trust (2022).
About Listed Buildings
Historic Environment Scotland is responsible for designating sites and places at the national level. These designations are Scheduled monuments, Listed buildings, Inventory of gardens and designed landscapes and Inventory of historic battlefields.
We make recommendations to the Scottish Government about historic marine protected areas, and the Scottish Ministers decide whether to designate.
Listing is the process that identifies, designates and provides statutory protection for buildings of special architectural or historic interest as set out in the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) (Scotland) Act 1997.
We list buildings which are found to be of special architectural or historic interest using the selection guidance published in Designation Policy and Selection Guidance (2019)
Listed building records provide an indication of the special architectural or historic interest of the listed building which has been identified by its statutory address. The description and additional information provided are supplementary and have no legal weight.
These records are not definitive historical accounts or a complete description of the building(s). If part of a building is not described it does not mean it is not listed. The format of the listed building record has changed over time. Earlier records may be brief and some information will not have been recorded.
The legal part of the listing is the address/name of site which is known as the statutory address. Other than the name or address of a listed building, further details are provided for information purposes only. Historic Environment Scotland does not accept any liability for any loss or damage suffered as a consequence of inaccuracies in the information provided. Addresses and building names may have changed since the date of listing. Even if a number or name is missing from a listing address it will still be listed. Listing covers both the exterior and the interior and any object or structure fixed to the building. Listing also applies to buildings or structures not physically attached but which are part of the curtilage (or land) of the listed building as long as they were erected before 1 July 1948.
While Historic Environment Scotland is responsible for designating listed buildings, the planning authority is responsible for determining what is covered by the listing, including what is listed through curtilage. However, for listed buildings designated or for listings amended from 1 October 2015, legal exclusions to the listing may apply.
If part of a building is not listed, it will say that it is excluded in the statutory address and in the statement of special interest in the listed building record. The statement will use the word 'excluding' and quote the relevant section of the 1997 Act. Some earlier listed building records may use the word 'excluding', but if the Act is not quoted, the record has not been revised to reflect subsequent legislation.
Listed building consent is required for changes to a listed building which affect its character as a building of special architectural or historic interest. The relevant planning authority is the point of contact for applications for listed building consent.
Find out more about listing and our other designations at www.historicenvironment.scot/advice-and-support. You can contact us on 0131 668 8914 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Printed: 02/12/2023 18:55