North Block, Royal Central School of Speech and Drama
For more than 100 years, the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama has sustained a reputation for innovation and excellence, being widely regarded as one of the top drama training institutions. When the School needed to provide more studio and teaching space on its site at Swiss Cottage, where it has been since 1956, the North Block extension was designed to mirror its welcoming, exciting, and flexible characteristics.
The new BREEAM 'Excellent' North Block provides a nine-storey 2,200m² addition and sits on a small but prominent corner site, adjoining a row of Regency stucco villas and consolidating many teaching and studio spaces previously spread over the campus. Double-skinned room-in-room construction allows for five new double-height drama studios to be stacked one above the other; preventing acoustic transfer between floors. The studios provide specialist teaching spaces for film and sound, a theatre with galleries, an open drama studio, a light rehearsal studio and on the top a daylit movement studio. Smaller-scale teaching spaces face the streets on two sides with dual-purpose spaces including changing rooms and offices.
Like many institutions, the school had grown in a pragmatic piece-by-piece way over the years. This latest development offered an opportunity to develop a self-contained and self-sustaining home for the school by replacing a temporary building with larger and better facilities.
Working alongside Tim Ronalds Architects, we provided M&E services throughout, as well as pre-planning sustainability advice .
Sustainability was considered from the outset. The London Borough of Camden is focused on tackling climate change through promoting higher environmental standards in design and construction, and this was a key part of the overall project approach.
The highly specialised nature of the building (primarily studio, rehearsal and performance spaces) and very high noise levels in the immediate surroundings created a signifcant challenge to overcome without introducing any additional "lean, clean or green" measures. Studios needed to be ventilated and attenuated to a certain level to achieve high expectations of the School and compliance calculations do not make an allowance for specialist design of such spaces.
Passive measures of reducing the energy demand were promoted, to help achieve the school's performance standards while complying with the London Plan and Council’s requirements. These include increased levels of insulation to building envelope and piped services, low energy lighting and electrical appliances, high-spec lighting control, water saving appliances and low air permeability of the building. Noise attenuated mixed mode ventilation was introduced in a high proportion of the building area. At the same time, 150m² of high efficiency solar panels are used to offset 26% of the building's carbon emissions.
The BREEAM Excellent North Block Building was completed in 2019 and delivers cutting-edge facilities for both students and the local community, while strengthening its reputation as an iconic North London cultural hub.
“On budget and not far off schedule, we now have five superb studios, including a studio ‘courtyard’ theatre, a film/TV/sound stage, and a dance/movement studio, adding to our existing estate and to give us facilities at the forefront of the specialist drama sector of UK higher education.” - Gavin Henderson, Principal, the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama