Central begins £16.7m development

The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama forges ahead with multi-million estates project at Swiss Cottage site

Following the Higher Education Funding Council for England’s independent review into institution-specific funding, and the confirmation that The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama’s provision is world-leading, the School is delighted to announce that it can now move ahead with the next phase of development on its site in Swiss Cottage. The new North Block building, which received planning permission from Camden Council in March of 2015 after a lengthy period of consultation, will improve the campus’s provisions and provide access to cutting-edge arts facilities for both students and the local community, further cementing the school’s reputation as a North London cultural hub. 

The works will extend the school’s teaching, rehearsal and performance spaces, and will include the addition of studios with a focus on training for film and media as well as a new public, courtyard theatre. Whilst not exceeding the current campus building line, the North Block will replace the outdated, temporary Studio 1 building and will provide the school with additional teaching, rehearsal and performance spaces, enabling students and staff to work together on the newly consolidated site and experience improved learning and teaching environments. The additional space will also provide the school with opportunities to expand its youth work and to contribute more comprehensively to cultural offerings in the local area. 

Central’s Principal, Professor Gavin Henderson, said: “This is a tremendous time for Central, as we forge ahead with greatly increased funding for World Leading research and now doubled funding for our Teaching and Learning – also assessed as World Leading. We can proceed with added confidence to start on site with our new building, bringing state of the art studios to enhance facilities that are already considered to be amongst the best in our sector. We are grateful to all who have helped bring us to this turning point in Central’s history.” 

The announcement coincides with the School’s appointment of GRAHAM Construction as the project’s official contractors. 

GRAHAM will construct the new eight-storey building that will be connected to the existing West Block via mezzanine walkways on floors one, three and five, creating 2,400 sq m of new space. A contiguous piled wall around the site perimeter with reinforced concrete lined walls will be built below ground level to form a double-storey basement, followed by the construction of an in-situ reinforced concrete frame for the six floors above ground.

Distinctive, fit-for-purpose theatrical and performing arts facilities will integrate with local architecture and contribute to the surrounding cultural quarter, creating a long-term sustainable solution

The new facility will be traditionally-clad and painted stucco to integrate with the surrounding architecture of the Belsize Conservation Area. Sustainable design solutions including photovoltaic panels and natural ventilation methods will be installed to reduce the environmental impact of the running of the building. 

GRAHAM Construction’s London Office Director, Rob Joyce, said: “The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama’s vision to provide high quality, bespoke teaching and performance spaces that meet its students’ needs and uphold its world-leading reputation, will be further realised with this development. Distinctive, fit-for-purpose theatrical and performing arts facilities will integrate with local architecture and contribute to the surrounding cultural quarter, creating a long-term sustainable solution.” 

Design for the building has been led by Tim Ronalds Architects, a firm with an extensive repertoire in the development of performing arts venues.

Central is one of the world’s pre-eminent conservatoires for the performing arts. With over 100 years of history, its alumni can be found in every avenue of the creative industries and include such luminary figures as Judi Dench, Vanessa Redgrave, Michael Grandage, Sonia Friedman, Deborah Warner, Martin Freeman, Andrew Garfield and Kit Harington. Its ratio of undergraduate applications to places is the highest of any UK university, and the past 18 months have seen both its institution-specific funding and its research grant allocations increased in recognition of its independently adjudged world-leading teaching and research programmes. 

Founded in 1906 at the Royal Albert Hall, the school moved to the Embassy Theatre in 1956 and it is upon this historic site that it continues to grow. 

Work on the North Block is expected to begin in July/August 2016 with a projected completion date in early 2018. The school will remain in use throughout the construction process and will continue to engage fully with area residents, local stakeholders and Camden Council.


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