Founded in 1939 by pioneering educators Grace Cone and Olive Ripman, Arts Educational Schools is an internationally-recognised centre of excellence supporting future generations of young professionals in the performing arts.
In order to accommodate a growing need for training spaces, the School launched a major expansion and upgrade of their building in West London.
The project was carried out in phases, the first included the demolition of the existing hall and the delivery of an additional 2500 sqm of new facilities including a new performing arts studios, rehearsal and teaching spaces, and a new rooftop playground.
Enabling works were carried out during summer break when the school had a short period of closure, but otherwise the building remained open and in-use throughout.
At ground level, the column-free new space hosts rehearsal and dance studios and provides a flexible open space. The first floor is mainly occupied by classrooms. Storey height transfer trusses concealed in the walls at the first floor span onto primary trusses expressed in the elevation to comply with the vibration limits necessitated by the dance studios above. Temporary columns and temporary pad foundations were installed on site to help erect the complex steelwork during construction.
The second floor accommodates multiple dance studios, framed with large secondary spanning beams and metal decking between the internal walls. A large outdoor recreation space is located at roof level for students and school staff to enjoy.
Surrounded by many residential buildings, access to site was particularly challenging and only possible through a 3m opening to the courtyard. Our civil engineering team designed a blue roof and below ground tank, providing surface water attenuation for the constrained site, with storage capacity for the subsequent phases.
With dance studios on the ground and second floor, acoustics and materials had to be carefully considered in the design – alongside economics. Exposed precast planks were used on the second floor. Due to cranage lifting limits, 600mm-wide span panels were used instead of the normal 1.2m wide panels. A distinctive feature of the building are the large curved windows, with glazing fixed back to a secondary steel and timber frame.
The following phase includes the demolition of various 1930-1940s buildings and the construction of a new studio theatre, called the Performance Hub. Surrounded by existing buildings and by the recent additions from the previous phases, thorough investigations had to be carried out to ensure that this structure could feasibly be constructed in the phased way that the school finances demanded.
The new theatre space will be an open-plan column-free space with further dance studios on the first floor. Steel structure with metal deck floors and a timber joisted roof and different build-ups options are being explored for the superstructure.