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Royal Academy of Dance, Wandsworth

Words:
Regional Awards Jury

Takero Shimazaki Architects with Atomik Architecture win a 2024 RIBA London Award for an uplifting, welcoming and inclusively safe place

Royal Academy of Dance. Felix Koch
Royal Academy of Dance. Felix Koch

2024 RIBA London Award

Royal Academy of Dance, Wandsworth
Takero Shimazaki Architects with Atomik Architecture for Royal Academy of Dance

Contract value: Confidential
GIA: 5,890m2

The Royal Academy of Dance (RAD) had a long-standing ambition to transfer its operations from a very inefficient, constrained heritage structure in Battersea to a new building in the same area. This project is the result of CEO Sir Luke Rittner’s vision of a cleverly articulated deal to swap sites with a developer who would also provide significant fit-out funding. The RAD’s new home is the ground floor of a new residential tower on a main thoroughfare. The spaces were originally intended as a large-scale retail unit, and the structural walls, columns, and MEP (mechanical, electrical and plumbing) services routes were predefined for the building above. Takero Shimazaki Architects has masterfully reimagined them as a network of spacious indoor streets and plazas that elegantly define the public and private activities taking place and demystify the RAD’s work.

The architect could have viewed the project simply as a fitout. It also had to comply with a complex set of agreements with building stakeholders. Still, its design intent matched the client’s vision in reimagining the space as a continuation of the city, with the RAD a generous local contributor.

  • Royal Academy of Dance. Felix Koch
    Royal Academy of Dance. Felix Koch
  • Royal Academy of Dance. David Grandorge
    Royal Academy of Dance. David Grandorge
  • Royal Academy of Dance. Felix Koch
    Royal Academy of Dance. Felix Koch
  • Royal Academy of Dance. Siobhan Hennessy
    Royal Academy of Dance. Siobhan Hennessy
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It was ingenious in developing an economical palette of added elements and materials to define spaces within the exposed concrete volumes. A nice touch is the retained remnants of construction setting-out markings, which aid visitors’ understanding of the site’s context while also contributing to the relaxed atmosphere.

Seven high-specification dance studios for examinations and teaching, a theatre that seats more than 180 people, and a shop, library, café and offices are among the uses accommodated across 5,890m2. While the raw concrete structure provides a calm backdrop, highlights of colour and/or texture are sparingly used to define spaces for gathering. Wayfinding and graphics also designed by the architect have contributed to developing the RAD’s worldwide brand.

Large internal windows allow glimpses into dance studios, animating the internal streets and making the institution more transparent for its wide-ranging community of users and visitors. Artworks on the history of dance and the RAD are placed carefully throughout, avoiding the possible cliché of dance/movement being overtly expressed in the structure or interior design.

The client’s heartfelt endorsement shows its level of gratitude to the architect, describing their work together as ‘nothing short of inspiring’. Seeing the activities of dancers young and old, examiners, teaching staff and front of house and admin teams in the space, it was clear to the jury that the building is an uplifting, welcoming and inclusively safe place.

  • Royal Academy of Dance. David Grandorge
    Royal Academy of Dance. David Grandorge
  • Royal Academy of Dance. David Grandorge
    Royal Academy of Dance. David Grandorge
  • Royal Academy of Dance. David Grandorge
    Royal Academy of Dance. David Grandorge
  • Royal Academy of Dance. David Grandorge
    Royal Academy of Dance. David Grandorge
  • Royal Academy of Dance. Felix Koch
    Royal Academy of Dance. Felix Koch
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Jury members were unanimous in recognising the quality of the design and the trusting and collaborative client/architect relationship, as well as the exemplary way that the project serves its community while also transforming this important worldwide institution. The project has achieved the client’s ambitious vision, both for upgraded performance and studio spaces and for increased visibility in London and the local area.

See the rest of the RIBA London winners hereAnd all the RIBA Regional Awards here

To see the whole RIBA Awards process visit architecture.com

RIBA Regional Awards 2024 sponsored by EH Smith and Autodesk

Credits

Contractor Synergy Property Group 
Structural engineer Waterman Group
Environmental/M&E engineer Hoare Lea and Delta Green
Acoustic engineer/theatre consultant  Charcoal Blue
Lighting design FPOV
Project management Cragg Management Services
Graphic designer Wolfe Hall
Access consultant CAE

 

Credit: Takero Shimazaki Architects
Credit: Takero Shimazaki Architects
Credit: Takero Shimazaki Architects
Credit: Takero Shimazaki Architects

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