Text description provided by the architects. BuckleyGrayYeoman has completed an 8,500 sq ft Performing Arts Centre for Channing – an independent girls’ school in Highgate London. The professional-standard facility has been designed to provide facilities for the teaching of both the dramatic arts and technical theatre skills, with rigging and lighting that can be configured and operated by school-age children, making the technical aspects of theatre production as much a part of the educational programme as the action on stage.
The opening of the Performing Arts Centre marks the completion of BuckleyGrayYeoman’s six-year spatial masterplan for Channing School, which has enabled the school to provide high-quality new sports facilities and sixth form accommodation on a tightly constrained site in the Highgate Conservation Area.
Paul White, Director of BuckleyGrayYeoman, said:
“The completion of the Performing Arts Centre also marks the completion of a six-year master planning project that has achieved a minor revolution on Channing’s Highgate campus. Working within the constraints of a densely used site within a conservation area, we’ve been able to create over 25,000 sq ft of high quality specialised facilities that enable Channing to provide unique education experiences that enhance the core curriculum and encourage practical and collaborative learning experiences that build life skills to complement the school’s high academic standards.”
Channing School sits in a conservation area and the school campus has a strongly built heritage. The defining characteristic of the new building, a series of pitched roofs, creates a strong longitudinal emphasis to the building that harmonizes it with the school’s listed Founders Hall. The grouping of the new buildings towards the southern end of the site in close proximity to the existing school has conserved the green landscaping and outdoor sports pitches to the north, strengthening the campus feel by arranging new and old buildings around a landscaped courtyard.
The Performing Arts Centre will be used both for rehearsal and performance and can be configured as either a 250 seat theatre or a 950 sq ft performance space overlooked by two tiers of gallery seating. A traditional proscenium stage sits at the end of an auditorium flanked by two stories of gallery seating. Movable banked seating facing the stage in the center of the room can be retracted in order to create a sunken floor area for different performance types or staging, giving the students and staff a highly flexible space for a variety of art practices. The theatre can be operated as a “black box” environment or naturally-lit by three-story-high windows that flood the space with natural light when the curtains are drawn.
High-quality materials were chosen throughout the project. The predominant red brick material was selected in response to the architectural context within and around the site. The handmade bricks have a visually pleasing natural variegation of color and texture and enabled BuckleyGrayYeoman to create a number of special brick shapes to complete key building details such as the chamfered window reveals. Lime mortar was used to minimize the need for movement joints, resulting in a crafted, sculptural finish.