The Brief: Kerb and the National Theatre aimed to create a space that not only complemented the theatre’s programming but also celebrated London’s vibrant independent food and drink scene. Their objective was to challenge the street furniture status quo and build an exceptional physical installation that would encourage Londoners to come together and enjoy great food in an iconic outdoor location.
The Idea: The Table is a single continuous structure with curved portal connections which will host around 200 dining spaces outside the National Theatre on London’s Southbank this summer.
Architects Stiff + Trevillion wanted to create a one-of-a-kind table that mirrored Densy Lasdun’s Le Corbusier inspired towers of the National Theatre itself. As such the base ‘towers’ of The Table are built to resemble the concrete blocks that make up the building beyond and as such are purposely placed at 45-degree angles.
The timber construction is stained in bright branded NT red, it’s the perfect companion to the concrete grey of the Southbank. The stained timber is so striking it can be seen from nearby Waterloo bridge, the north side of the Thames and even the capsules of London eye. It’s a beacon for passers-by and could potentially become a London landmark in its own right.
The Build: Benchmark Design joined the project to oversee its creation from conception to reality and enlisted Andy Thornton to build the entirely bespoke construction.
The structure consists of separate components premade to bespoke specifications in the workshop which were then joined together like a giant wooden puzzle on site. The Table is made of six different table section types of three different heights (450, 750, 900) and two portal sections which combine to snake around the outdoor space in front of three food kiosks and a main container bar.
Built on site over a two-day period, the structure was connected on the first day with tweaks and touch ups taking place on day two. Because of matinee performances taking place during the day the assembly had to be as silent as possible to minimise disruption.
Design Concept: The Theatrical Intervention
The Table serves as the common ground between the expertise of Kerb and the National Theatre, offering a place for bonding, plotting, celebrating, and, of course, eating. This dramatic flowing structure defies traditional street furniture, guiding guests toward shared experiences and facilitating al fresco feasting on the Southbank. As visitors navigate the space, they create their own narrative, adding a theatrical touch to their dining experience.
Elevating Street Food to Destination Space
No table is complete without incredible food and drink atop it. Kerb envisioned going beyond the usual “on-the-go” options and offering destination-worthy street food. Groups would be encouraged to share larger platters, fostering a sense of togetherness while enjoying diverse and unconventional food options not commonly found “on the street.” This elevated culinary experience becomes an integral part of The Table, enticing visitors to break bread, savour golden hour pints, and relish London’s foodie culture.
Experiential Entrance to the Theatre: The Table serves as a captivating and immersive entrance to the National Theatre, enhancing the overall theatre experience and setting the stage for what lies ahead.
Kerb’s Flagship Open-Air Market: The Table becomes Kerb’s flagship open-air market, showcasing London’s most exciting independent food and drink vendors. It provides a platform for culinary entrepreneurs to thrive and offers visitors an unrivalled gastronomic adventure.
Establishing a Sense of Community: The Table cultivates a strong sense of community, bringing people together from all walks of life. By creating a space where strangers can share a table, it breaks down barriers and fosters connections, creating an inclusive environment for all.
Growth on Food and Drink Sales: The Table’s unique dining experience and curated selection of food and drink offerings contribute to increased sales and growth for Kerb and the participating vendors. It elevates the perception of street food and establishes The Table as a must-visit destination for food enthusiasts.
Increasing Dwell Time: The Table encourages visitors to linger, creating a relaxed atmosphere that extends the time spent in Theatre Square. This increased dwell time benefits the National Theatre, as well as the surrounding businesses, amplifying the overall appeal of the area.