Siobhan Davies Studios
“The new building has grown out of a collaboration with the Siobhan Davies Dance that has now lasted ten years. We started by spending a lot of time in the studio with the dancers, watching how they work and learning what they need. The existing building dictated that the main studio should be on the roof and we were excited by the notion of how it would feel to dance high above the city. We had a clear notion from the outset that the dancers should have daylight and be aware of the changing environment around them but that the space should be focussed and inspiring. We also wanted to create a public foyer that felt like a landscape, with the exterior entering the building. We began designing by thinking about how both dancers and architects use their bodies to describe space, how the body has always been a scale by which we measure space and how both bodies and buildings work in and environment subject to gravity. We were excited to make use of an existing structure because it gave us something very tangible, tough and muscular to work our ideas against.

Inspired by the body, our approach was to use the robustness of the old building as a 'ground' for making quite radical changes and adding new elements that were a complete contrast to it. The billowing ribbons of the main studio's shells were gravity-defying forms that seem to swell and float above the plane the dancers dance on. The main stair is hung from the roof, its tensioned cables stretched like tendons as they hover over the concrete ground. The changing rooms are like cocoons from which ordinary people emerge as dancers. In the foyer the memory of the old is refashioned as layers of old finishes are stripped from the wall and fresh layers added.

We used materials that were both soft and hard, contrasting these as appropriate. Colours are used for their differences. Sensuousness is juxtaposed with puritanism and pattern with purity.”

Sarah Wigglesworth

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