In 2002 the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA) made the decision to move their teaching school and theatre to a new site in Hammersmith. They purchased the former Royal Ballet School site between the A4 Talgarth Road and the Piccadilly Line at Barons Court. The primary aim of the move was to enable LAMDA to have all its teaching facilities on a single campus.
LAMDA’s site is a long thin strip of land, bounded by a six-lane highway and a railway line. It presents considerable problems for a teaching environment, including traffic noise, railway noise and pollution. At the same time, it is an extraordinarily high-profile location with great visibility. We have designed an inexpensive building that relishes the gritty urban qualities of its location and produces robust, calm spaces for learning.
The 5,600m2 building houses ten new flexible drama/dance studios, a 120-seat black-box studio theatre, a 200-seat training theatre, foyer, meeting rooms, offices and ancillary accommodation with projecting fly tower. The accommodation is organised into a three-storey teaching block and a four-storey theatre volume. The teaching block contains studios, smaller teaching spaces and office accommodation. A top-lit circulation route cuts through the teaching block, connecting the existing buildings to the theatre. The tough material palette of blockwork, precast and in-situ concrete will withstand heavy use as well as meeting stringent acoustic requirements. Due to the constrained site, the back-of-house facilities theatre were placed below the theatre, lifting stage two floors above the entrance level. The foyer is carved from the narrow space between the teaching block and the theatre. Extending over four floors, it is designed around the journey from the box office to the auditorium. Stairs and landings play against a masonry wall pierced with regular openings to create a lively gathering space wound around the timber fan of the auditorium.
Externally the building is a simple factory-like container. A panelled metal skin is drawn over the accommodation, like an industrial building the treatment is deliberately non-hierarchical. The quadripartite organisation of the teaching block is presented as four identical metal boxes, each placed on a brick plinth. The theatre is a fifth, larger version, otherwise undifferentiated. The flanged metal construction of the upper facades unites the blind areas of the theatre volume with the glazed areas of the teaching block. The rhythmic projecting mullions provide a level of animation to a façade experienced predominantly at an oblique angle moving past at speed by car or train.