I started off training to be a biologist but got involved with student theatre at Cambridge in the mid 80s. I changed to art history,(fewer essays) and ended up designing over 30 plays in my four years there, working with friends like Sam Mendes who were to become slightly better known than me! We took tours to Edinburgh, Avignon and around northern Europe; I built nearly all of these sets myself with enthusiastic volunteers.TOMPIPER photo byEllieKurttz014-09

I studied at the Slade for a post grad in theatre design, but ran off to Paris before the course ended when a chance arose to work with Chloe Obolensky on Peter Brook’s production of the Tempest in 1990. I also assisted the designer Voytek, acting as co designer on M. butterfly at the Schauspeilhaus Hamburg.

My freelance career began in earnest when I returned from Paris, I worked at the Orange tree, Soho Theatre  and first collaborated with Michael Boyd on hands-on Pantos at the Tron in Glasgow. I have worked extensively with Dominic Hill at Dundee Rep, The Traverse, and now the Citz. Other regular collaborators have included, Abigail Morris, Sam West, Conall Morrison, Tim Supple, Polly Teale, Chris Renshaw, Indhu Rubasingham, Zinnie Harris, Sam Mendes, Elizabeth Freestone  and Erica Whyman.

I was Associate Designer at the RSC from 2004 to 2014 and as well as designing over fifty shows for the company over nearly thirty years, I have been closely involved in the redevelopment project; working with Ian Ritchie architects on the Courtyard Theatre and new TOP theatre, and with Bennetts Associates and Charcoalblue on the award winning new RST in Stratford. I also mentored the RSC Assistant designer scheme .

I am a Creative Associate with the Kiln Theatre and helped with advice on their capital project, including designing their rusty metal donor gate ! While from 2020 to 22 I was  the Resident associate designer there and set up another resident assistant designer scheme. 

I collaborated with Alan Farlie on the acclaimed British Museum Exhibition Shakespeare; Staging the World in 2012, and we have worked together again on ‘Blood’ at the Jewish Museum and ‘Curtain up’ for the V and A in 2016. We opened Winnie-The-Pooh at the V and A in 2018 and  Alice; Curious and Curiouser in 2021. We have been design consultants on the Story Museum redevelopment, creating multiple immersive exhibition spaces and a new theatre space.We have just opened a new immersive exhibition , Living with Death, for the Humboldt Forum in Berlin.

My collaboration with Paul Cummins and The Tower of London on ‘Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red’ has been an extraordinary creative journey, which seemed to catch the mood of the Nation and the World in 2014 with over 5 million visitors to the installation. The two sculptural pieces Weeping  Window and Wave which I designed for the original installation went on tour with 14-18NOW around the country. We created 18 site specific installations ,culminating with ones at IWM London and IWM North, The poppies are now gifted to the IWM with a permanent installation at IWM North.In 2018 the Tower invited me to create an installation ‘Beyond the deepening shadows” to mark the end of the centenary commemorations of the First world war. 




  • Nominated Best design International Opera Awards 2022 for Rusalka.
  •  Turn of the Screw winner of Opera critics circle award for best film 2021. 
  • Highly commended best exhibition design  Museum and Heritage awards for Alice V and A 2021
  • Nominated Scottish theatre critics circle best design for Rhinoceros and Long days Journey into Night 2018
  • Honorary Fellow Royal Welsh College Of Music and Drama 2015
  • Orfeo Nominated for Olivier Award 2015 as part of outstanding achievement in opera for ROH, Roundhouse and The Globe.
  • MBE for services to Theatre and First World war Commemoration 2014
  • Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red ,Tower of London original concept and poppies by Artist Paul Cummins ,Installation design by Tom Piper. Winner of London First Award for Cultural Excellence. Winner Special Award Civic Trust 2014.Tower of London, winner of Hudson Heritage special award.Winner Tourism Society award 2015. Tower of London winner of Museum and Heritage Award for the Installation. Winner Dulux Lets Colour award for Colour moment of the Year ! Winner Visual Art Category South Bank Sky Arts Award .Winner Heros award from the charity Help the Heroes
  • Red Velvet, Nominated for Best Production in an Affiliate Theatre Olivier Awards 2012
  • As part of the design team on the RSC redevelopment , winner of the RIBA client of the year award 2011, shortlisted for the RIBA Stirling Prize 2011
  • The Histories, RSC. Nominated Olivier award best set design 2009
  • The Histories , RSC. Winner Olivier award best costume design 2009
  • Insignificance, Sheffield. Nominated TMA awards best design 2005
  • Ubu Roi, Dundee rep. Nominated Scottish theatre critics circle best design 2005
  • Twelfth Night , Dundee rep. Winner Scottish critics circle best design 2003
  • Rock station Soho theatre. Winner London fringe best design award 1992
  • Cat in the Ghetto, Tabard theatre. Winner London fringe best design award 1990