London's newest centre for performing arts, Stratford Circus, opens its doors to the public in June 2001. Only the capital's third site, after the Barbican and South Bank, to be built specifically for the arts, the venue has been made possible by the largest Lottery grant yet in outer London.

Situated in Theatre Square, adjacent to the Theatre Royal and Stratford Picture House, the Circus will contain four performance spaces, meeting rooms, a computer suite, bars and a café. The centre plans to deliver up to 2,000 events a year, including touring shows from across the performance spectrum, plus a full programme of classes, workshops and community events.

Jon Harris, the director of Stratford Circus, says the aim is to "attract people through active participation. I believe the only way we can create new audiences for work in London is to inspire a sense of ownership and involvement in the arts. We are also committed to staging the best performing arts at a price that people can afford."

The spacious three storey building has been designed by Levitt Bernstein architects, who won industry awards for their work on Birmingham's Ikon Gallery and the Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester. A chrome lift and giant video wall reflect the inside of the building to the outside world, infusing the whole area with colour and light. The centre also features two pieces of public art. "Light Tower Lift" by Peter Freeman is an installation of 30,00 fibre optic lights, whilst Ron Hasleden's "Floor" is an interactive work containing tiles which light up according to a person's movements across it.

- by Gareth Thompson