The successful creative partnership of Nicholas Hytner and Nick Starr, former bosses of the National Theatre, have revealed plans for a major new theatre at Tower Bridge.

The 900-seat venue, part of Berkeley’s One Tower Bridge development, is expected to open in spring 2017 and represents another landmark in a burgeoning arts culture that has the east as its centre of gravity.

The pair said the new “flagship” venue on the South Bank was “the only central London commercial theatre of scale not in the historic West End”.

“It feels like the time is right for a new theatre that answers the needs of contemporary audiences and theatre-makers,” they said.

“We’re going to make shows that are both challenging and popular. We know there’s a large audience which responds to new work that is ambitious and stimulating; and the more adventurous it is, the more popular it turns out to be.”

The venue would house their London Theatre Company and would have an auditorium overlooking the Bridge.

The pair added: “It will offer theatre-makers the kind of environment that will provoke from them adventurous new work, and it will offer to audiences modern standards of comfort, leg-room and facilities.

“We’re already working with playwrights and directors on a programme that will be predominantly new but will include, on occasion, a re-invention of a great work from the past.”

Sir Nicholas, who oversaw hits like The History Boys, War Horse, One Man, Two Guvnors and The Curious Incident of The Dog in the Night-time, said the theatre would programme four plays a year and said the focus would be “predominately new writing – though every now and then we will probably reinvent a great play from the past”.

The priority, he said, would be “exciting new plays from exciting new playwrights, who are ready to get beyond the studio theatres”.

New cultural innovations in the east include the Olympicopolis at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, including the V&A, Sadler’s Wells and, possibly, the Smithsonian; and the arrival of the English National Ballet in Canning Town .