National Theatre / by Ryan Trower

Utilitarian - /jʊˌtɪlɪˈtɛːrɪən/ - adjective

designed to be useful or practical rather than attractive.

I've always found Denys Lasdun's National Theatre tricky. Tricky to photograph. Tricky to appreciate. Tricky to notice, even; nestled away from the river, obscured on one side by Waterloo Bridge, and on the other by the IBM building (also designed by Lasdun).

It perfectly fits the definition of utilitarian, which for its purpose as a theatre, and more greatly, the national theatre, seems odd.

It wasn't until I realised I could actually go on the terraces, and after the forms had all been signed (I was unaware that you even needed one to shoot there), everything began to make sense.

There's an overwhelming sense of drama, with the striking monolithic buttresses from the ground, supporting the rest of the fortress-like structure above.

Drama: at home in a theatre. It's not quite the opera houses of urban China, like those of Harbin or Guangzhou. It's not quite the incredibly grand theatres of the old cities of Europe. The Royal National Theatre is somewhere in between; harking back to the history of theatre, while peeking ever so subtly into the future.

And it works, becoming an icon in its own right.