Known colloquially as ‘Central’, the school was founded in 1906 and enjoys a reputation as a centre of excellence for training in the dramatic arts and related media industries. The extension, containing teaching, rehearsal and production studios, replaces sub-standard accommodation built in the 1960s.
At the heart of the Central School of Speech and Drama’s site is the school’s own theatre, surrounded by various additions built in the last decade. It all looked rather ad hoc and piecemeal, a brick block here, a concrete workshop building there. Something radical had to happen, in terms of both volume and design. The school needed space, and a lot of it. It also had no architectural identity and this too had to change.
Central’s extension reinforces a vital human dimension in this traffic-dominated locality. Small windows pierce it’s brickwork plinth to give passers-by glimpses of the interiors. A glazed circulation spine above reveals the movement and interaction of people at every floor level, allowing this activity to animate the street. The optical trick produced by deep metal mullions in this glazing – which make the wall appear solid when seen at an oblique angle but disclose narrow strips of glass when viewed head on – is best appreciated at a pedestrian’s pace.
A tightly spaced and subtly coloured glass façade to the west, is held together by solid volumes of dark engineering brick and shiny zinc. Aubergine render walls subtly bring ‘warmth’ to the surrounding streets. The curtain walling is comprised of clear, translucent and fritted glass panels in an irregular composition. These frame or mask views of the street, while helping to control solar gain. The building was awarded a BREEAM rating of ‘very good’.
Swiss Cottage, London
Royal Central School of Speech and Drama
Jestico + Whiles
Ellis + Moore