Trinity Laban Dance Faculty

Education

Laban Dance Faculty, Herzog & de Meuron
Margherita Spiluttini
 

Laban is located in southeast London on the edge of Deptford Creek, surrounded by decaying blocks of council flats, scrapyards, and derelict industrial warehouses.

Af Pol Martin

Laban is the largest school for contemporary dance in the world, and one of Europe’s leading — and largest — institutions for contemporary dance artist training.

The curving facades are clad in transparent or translucent glass panels, depending on whether the spaces behind them require a view. Lime, turquoise and magenta, semi-translucent poly-carbonate panels — punctuated by large clear windows — are mounted in front of the glass panels, giving the building a pale magical glow.

The colors were chosen in collaboration with visual artist Michael Craig-Martin. The recently completed landscaped mounds, including an amphitheater, were designed by Vogt Architects.

The building has the same movement, youth, agility, pizzazz, front to it that its students have.
— Julian Barnes, juror

The interior is designed as an urban “streetscape”; a series of corridors, interior courtyards and meeting places wraps around the main theater, the literal and metaphorical heart of the building. Colors determine rhythm and orientation both inside and outside the building. 

All activities are intermixed and distributed on two main levels, promoting communication within the entire building. Two black concrete spiral staircases, placed at both ends, become places for encounters. Colors determine the rhythm and orientation both inside and outside the building. In the interior color is used as an aid to orientation, lending a distinct identity to each sector of the building.

Three planted yards, cut in at different depths, provide daylight to the interior and enable visual connections and spatial orientation throughout the entire building. They also mark the locations where the stairways access the main stories and the planted roof area.

Most of the studios are on the upper floor, with a window into the corridor and natural light through the facade. Each studio is different in size, form, and color.

The spiral staircase, located near the entrance, divides the two ramps — the expansive black sloping ramp that cuts across the building and the narrow ramp descending to the lower theater entrance — in the building. The concrete of the staircase and balustrade was left rough before painting, giving the appearance of black coal. Swirling handrails of bent wood are used everywhere.

The shadow images of the dancers play an active part of Laban’s architectural identity. By day, the regular activities of Laban — training, rehearsals, research, and workshops — are semi-visible through the walls from the outside. By night, Laban acts as a colored lantern or beacon, radiating light out to the surrounding area and along Deptford Creek.