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Dennis Wilson crowned UK’s top construction manager for National Theatre refurbishment


8th October 2015

Dennis Wilson of Lend Lease has won Construction Manager of the Year 2015 for his standout performance on the £48 million National Theatre rebuild and refurbishment. Competing against some of the UK’s most talented construction professionals, he beat 69 other finalists and nine other gold medallists to the coveted trophy. 

The Construction Manager of the Year Awards, run by the Chartered Institute of Building for more than 30 years, are unique because they focus on individual managers working within the built environment sector.

The multi-faceted NT Future project on London’s busy South Bank involved plenty of drama - heavy demolition, the remodelling of production and performing spaces, and the reimagining of public areas. 

But Dennis’s calm leadership ensured that the Grade II* listed icon – and its three theatres - remained fully operational throughout the three year transformation, employing 1,000 staff and welcoming up to 2,500 visitors daily. 

Dennis meticulously choreographed the project around the theatre’s packed schedule of evening performances, twice-weekly matinees and day time rehearsals. Noisy activity was restricted to three hours a day, with the most disruptive work banished to night shifts.

In order to minimise disruption to actors and theatregoers, Dennis introduced bespoke piling and demolition methods to reduce noise. He also devised a staggered migration programme helping the theatre’s departments to vacate and re-occupy areas as the project moved into different phases. The success of this complex strategy relied on the close liaison and monitoring of all parties, including the client’s 20 department heads and the 27 different trades working on site.

Unlike many refurbishment and rebuild projects, the construction team was unable to fully access and survey the building before work could begin. But Dennis’ versatile and agile management style kept the schedule on track despite a series of surprises that could have caused significant delays. He took a forensic approach to risk management and cost control, consulting closely with the client as each new scenario unfolded.

A popular and motivational leader, Dennis inspired the 350-strong project team to work to excellent standards, clocking up an exemplary safety record and producing a high quality finish. Building strong relationships with the client and general public, he encouraged all workers to treat the theatre ‘as if they were a guest in someone’s home’.

Throughout the project, Dennis collaborated closely with English Heritage and architect Paddy Dillon of Haworth Tompkins to ensure that the remodelling was sensitive to the vision of the National Theatre’s original architect, Sir Denys Lasdun. The result is a more sustainable building that has wowed the public and delighted the client and its trustees. 

Lisa Burger, Executive Director of the National Theatre, highlighted Dennis’ unique management skills as key to the success on this most challenging of projects. She said: “Dennis was a pillar of strength throughout the construction period. Consistently calm under immense pressure, he was never confrontational and constantly looking for a solution. He was always able to see the bigger picture and focus on our project goals and vision.”

Dennis was crowned Construction Manager of the Year at the Grosvenor House Hotel, Mayfair on 8 October 2015. He was selected overall champion out of 10 gold medal winners and 69 finalists in categories ranging from small residential projects to schemes of over £60 million.

Chris Blythe Chief Executive at the CIOB said: “The NT Future project was fiendishly complex, with surprises that could have sunk a lesser team,  but Dennis’ five star performance and outstanding leadership mark him out as one of the most tenacious, versatile and talented leaders working in construction today.

“Winning this coveted trophy earns Dennis a place in history and on the CMYA roll of honour. He is an inspiration to all who work with him and will be an incredibly difficult act to follow.”

This year, a judging team of 22 senior industry professionals spent six months visiting projects and interviewing candidates. The judges collectively covered thousands of miles, searching for the very best and brightest construction managers currently at work in the UK.

Chris Blythe Chief Executive at the CIOB added: “Once again, there was an extraordinary array of talent on display at CMYA this year and standards were sky high.

“CMYA has always been a showcase of contemporary best practice and it’s heartening to see the dedication to innovation and continual improvement demonstrated by construction managers on projects of all sizes. Congratulations to all our finalists and medallists, your achievements have made the industry extremely proud.”

For further information please visit the website.



Saul Townsend
+1344 630 766

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