Royal Opera House
The Royal Opera House in London’s Covent Garden has opened the doors to its transformed new home, following an extensive three-year construction project.
With inviting new entrances, extended foyers and terraces and a new café, bar and restaurant, together with an extensive programme of ticketed and free daytime events, activities and festivals for people of all ages, the Royal Opera House is now, for the first time, open to the public every day from 10am.
At the heart of the transformation is the brand new Linbury Theatre, the West End’s newest and most intimate theatre, which provides an additional world-class stage for The Royal Ballet, The Royal Opera and a host of internationally celebrated artists and partners. In its inaugural Season, the Linbury Theatre showcases an astonishing range of work, from an 18th-century rarity to 21st-century world premieres – with 25 per cent of seats priced at £25 or less.
The project, designed by award-winning architects Stanton Williams, unites 19th-century grandeur with 21st-century elegance. The new bar and restaurant, created by Dutch designers Studio Linse, provide delicious food and drink in beautifully designed spaces, and are open to both performance goers and other members of the public.
All of the above form part of the exciting ‘Open Up’ project from the Royal Opera House. The Open Up project will make the Royal Opera House a daytime destination open to all.
Alex Beard, Chief Executive of the Royal Opera House, said:
“We are delighted to open the doors to a transformed Royal Opera House, with our new Linbury Theatre, new entrances, foyers and terraces, a new café, bar and restaurant and refurbished Clore Studio, as well as an extensive programme of daytime events, activities and festivals. The Royal Opera House is now open every day from 10am, and we want as many people as possible to visit one of the world’s most beautiful theatres, to experience our art forms and to get a taste of the remarkable creativity at play here.”
The final construction cost is estimated at £50.7m, with all of the funds raised from philanthropy.
Multi-Award-winning architectural design practice Stanton Williams was tasked with nearing the experience for the public, staff and performers.
The complex project, which was carried out over a three year period while the Royal Opera House remained operational, balances a desire to attract a new audience with the need to respect the heritage of the venue and its unique character. The majority of the interventions have been to the ROH’s 1990s extension (designed by Dixon Jones/BDP), with only minimal works to the 1858 EM Barry design. Key elements of the project include:
The new Linbury Theatre replaces the existing studio theatre and delivers improved comfort, character, accessibility and technical performance whilst maintaining the intimacy of a 400-seat auditorium. Finely crafted in American black walnut with upholstered seating throughout, the state-of-the-art facility is fitted with adjustable seating configurations and electroacoustic technology.
The Redesigned Bow Street Entrance includes the introduction of a glazed pavilion at ground-floor level to replace the solid base beneath the Floral Hall elevation. This creates greater street presence by increasing visual permeability into the ROH’s ground and lower ground foyers. A new entrance leads to the expanded foyer, whilst above the pavilion, a new external terrace further animates the celebrated Floral Hall.
The Covent Garden piazza entrance has also been altered and enhanced through the introduction of a larger and more transparent revolving door and surrounds. This increased visual permeability combined with digital displays is designed to encourage more people to enter from the piazza colonnade into the enhanced foyer space beyond.
Linking the two newly designed entrances are New Foyers that flow through the ground floor and down to a new, lower ground floor foyer for the Linbury Theatre. These foyer levels are connected by a double-height space that can be used for impromptu events and performances. Improved foyer facilities include a larger shop (designed by Drinkall Dean) and a new café, with greater legibility achieved by opening up views through the space where possible. Relocation of the main staircase enables greater public use of the upper floors throughout the day.
Alan Stanton of Stanton Williams said:
“The Royal Opera House’s ‘Open Up’ project does just that, by opening up what had previously been a fairly constrained set of spaces to the world outside. The Bow Street extension presents a welcoming public face to the building while the expanded and interlinked foyer spaces breathe new energy into front-of-house areas. The new Linbury Theatre is a high-quality performance space that will make an important contribution to the work of the Royal Opera House as one of the world’s preeminent opera houses.”
Restaurant Level 5
On the upper floor, Stanton Williams has opened up the Amphitheatre foyer and introduced a new bar and 230-cover restaurant designed by Studio Linse. Restaurant Level 5 is open to both the public and performance-goers.
To find out a little bit more about the new restaurant and bar, Premier Hospitality spoke to Studio Linse owner Paul Linse. He began by explaining some of the thinking behind the design:
“I came up with a theme and called it ‘Timeless Elegance’ because I think that’s what the Royal Opera is about. Of course it’s about art and creativity but I have to translate that into an interior. It’s a huge floor and there was a restaurant already and a big bar for interval drinks looking into the historic Paul Hamlyn Hall.
“The client wanted the space to be very open and accessible but I also wanted to create intimacy. I decided to look at it in a Ying and Yang kind of way. I found that there were a lot of columns in the space and I hid the columns in cabinets that we created. The cabinets give the space a structure and zoning. In the cabinets are service stations but also wonderful costumes are displayed. The columns now are monumental, architectural, almost statues that give the space its strength.
“We also used art to decorate the space so over the banquette seating you will see beautiful sketches. I worked with the opera house’s ‘collections’ department to find archive sketches of costumes. We went through the archive over days and we found wonderful sketches that show what the opera house is about – art and creativity.”
To give the space some animation and a lively atmosphere, the kitchen has been opened up. Whereas before the kitchen staff was closed off, guests can now catch a glimpse of what’s going on behind the scenes. The tables also vary in shape, size and materials but are all tonal to match the overall feel of the restaurant.
The fifth floor also features a renewed terrace, partly glazed off; partly open. The open part features comfortable lounge seating while there is an outside bar for cocktails and interval drinks. The terrace offers striking views of London and is an important extension of the restaurant. Heaters are available to heat the space during the winter. Paul added:
“I don’t like places that, as we say in Dutch, scream and ask for attention. I think it’s about the experience of the people. They go to a show, a performance and they’d like to have a nice drink and meal beforehand. It’s not about my design, which may sound cliché, but I honestly mean that.
“This project was very important for us. My career in Holland up until now has been very, very good but this is the highlight. I hope it’s an introduction to this part of the world.”
The Royal Opera House’s aim is for many more people to enjoy and engage in exceptional ballet and opera.
The stunning renovation provides the opportunity to offer new front-of-house exhibitions, which will include spectacular costumes charting some of the most famous onstage episodes in the history of The Royal Ballet and The Royal Opera.
The Royal Opera House will also continue to offer its much-loved backstage tours. These provide intriguing insights into the world behind the stage, and give an exciting overview of the backstage areas, including costume and lighting workshops. There’s also a chance to see The Royal Ballet in rehearsals in their iconic dance studios.
To find out more about the whole programme of works, please visit www.roh.org.uk.
Maybank Associates specialise in architectural restorations and fine decorating, specialist wallcoverings, utilising specialist gilding, graining, faux marbling, French polishing and Trompe l’oeil and upholstery. Founded in Lambeth, London during the 1850s, Maybank Associates has a very long family history, with current director, Robert Maybank, the sixth generation of Maybank to oversee the company.
Maybank Associates’ portfolio includes various prestigious projects, including work for Buckingham and Blenheim Palace, the Ministry of Defence and the Houses of Parliament. Maybank Associates has also been fortunate to have worked alongside many leading designers and architects on projects including The Savoy, The Dorchester, 1 Hyde Park, COACH, Monkey House, Givenchy, The Big Easy and many more.
Most recently, Maybank Associates was appointed with the interior decorations to The Royal Opera House in Covent Garden.
Robert Maybank of Maybank Associates, said:
“We were delighted to be involved with such a prestigious project and fantastic London landmark, providing our company’s complete professionalism and continuing our company’s history and continued success.”
“We pride ourselves on our long history in employing some of the very best master craftsmen and Artisans where still to this day we use traditional methods to achieve the finest quality and results in our field of works.”
Established in 1925, Playfords is a building services installation specialist, providing complete packages throughout the construction industry. The company works with various clients, from schools to blue chip companies, including the likes of the NHS, Police Scotland and Barclays Bank PLC, to name but a few.
For more than 40 years, Playfords has been working with British Sugar; while for 30 years the company has built up a strong working relationship with John Lewis & Partners. More recently, Playfords has forged a new relationship with the team at the Royal Opera House while working on the recent transformation project.
Working on the Royal Opera House, Playfords provided the building with lighting, power, fire alarms, access control, intruder alarms and CCTV, along with all the ventilation, air conditioning, plumbing, sprinkler protection and a building management system. All of the services were fully coordinated within both the structural and architectural constraints of the building and the result is an installation that all parties are extremely proud of.
Commenting on the work at the Royal Opera House, Playfords Managing Director, Alan Tuohy, said:
“The Royal Opera House in Covent Garden is probably one of the most prestigious buildings in London and for Playfords to be associated with such an important project like this, where our services are critical to the functioning of the building, is fantastic.
“The venue provides a welcoming environment for users, visitors and show attendees alike and this recent work will maintain this environment, enthusing all who pass through its doors and in turn increasing visitor numbers. We believe the finished building achieves what it set out to do and more.”
To date, the Royal Opera House is the jewel in the crown for Playfords, but the company is not resting on its laurels. Instead, Playfords continues to secure prestigious projects including the refurbishment of the Theatre Royal in Drury Lane, which is scheduled for completion in autumn 2020.
“At Playfords we provide each client with a unique service. We understand that every client has different demands, drivers and expectations, so we listen and provide the service that best suits their needs.
“By listening to our clients, we have obtained repeat business and we’ve been recommended to other clients too – a true testament to Playfords’ 93 years in business.”
Open Entrances specialise in the design, manufacture, supply and installation of glass entrance doors and interior solutions. Consistently pushing the boundaries of glass entrance doors using innovative technical and aesthetic solutions, Open Entrances has recently added elegant and unique frameless glazing solutions to its range of products, as the answer to the ever increasing demand for minimalist and full height panels of glass.
Over the years, Open Entrances has built up a strong portfolio of projects from No.1 Poultry to the 48 Leicester Square scheme. Open Entrances was also responsible for the entrance at St. Paul’s Church Yard and more recently, was involved with the work on the Royal Opera House project.
Speaking to Premier Hospitality about the Royal Opera House, Open Entrances’ Managing Director, Rod Milicevic, said:
“We were appointed by the ROH in 2016 to assist their architect Stanton Williams in designing, engineering, manufacturing and installing the new Covent Garden Piazza entranceway. The design was simply breath-taking – incorporating a stunning curved structural glass entranceway with a very large 3.6m wide and 3.5m tall automated revolving glass door with a breakout facility and an adjacent automated glass passdoor. The design also incorporated two colours in the glasswork with integral LED lighting and bronze finish on the metalwork.
“From the outset this demanded a great deal of consultation in order to take Stanton Williams’ stunning designs and ensure that we were able to create an entranceway that was as aesthetically faithful as possible, but which could also deliver on a practical level.”
“This was an intensive process that demanded we work very closely not just with Stanton Williams, but also the project manager RISE and the cost consultants. The entirely bespoke nature of the design and the requirement to work with high quality materials but remain cost-competitive combined to make this a task that required absolute precision.
“We worked particularly closely with associates architects Tom Shell and Luke McClelland at Stanton Williams and with Project Director Joe Hacke at RISE, guiding them towards a technical engineered solution that we knew would allow us to create an entranceway that was indistinguishable from the design and would also be extremely robust, reliable and simple to maintain.”
The final design is made up of five large glass sections laminated and annealed, and the glass is low iron and screen printed. The motor for the automated door – a key issue on this project – is sited underground rather than in the head.
The enormous 5m tall structural glass sections were sourced from Spanish manufacturer Cricursa and shipped over to the UK. All of the aluminium and steel metalwork was undertaken by Protosheet in Kent and Open Entrances consulted with Erreka Automatic Doors for the supply of the actuation systems and motors.
The lighting specified in the project brief presented a specific challenge that was overcame by working with Applelec Ltd, who provided an ingenious light sheet solution, utilising organic light emitting diodes.
Once assembled, the entranceway was put through exhaustive testing procedures to make certain that it was up to the rigorous demands required. The very large and extremely heavy glass sections required specialist handling, so Open Entrances worked with GGR to come up with a special lifting strategy.
“Undertaking this project has been a true test of our skills, knowledge and management capability and it underlines our reputation as a premier bespoke designer, engineer, manufacturer and installer of oversized, technical glass and automated elegant entrances. We are very proud indeed to have successfully co-ordinated the works and to have played a significant role in the successful transformation of this world-renowned structure.
“More importantly though, Stanton Williams has been delighted with our work, and Tom Shell is happy to say so. The underlying ethos of the project is to draw the public into the Royal Opera House and the entrances are obviously a key aspect of this, ensuring they are as generous and welcoming as possible.
“Stanton Williams have collaborated closely with Open Entrances from the early stages of the design process through to the installation of this new entrance structure, successfully achieving the right level of transparency, elegance and attention to detail deemed appropriate for such a prestigious project.”
The Hampton Door Company Ltd
The Hampton Door Company Ltd specialise in the manufacture of bespoke, made-to-measure doorsets for projects within the hospitality, heritage and high-end residential sectors. The company has been in operation for two years and within this time has built up an impressive portfolio of projects including work at Claridge’s & The Connaught in Mayfair; Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Knightsbridge; Harewood House in Leeds; various residential projects in London, The Cotswolds and Jersey; and a hunting lodge in Scotland, to name but a few.
More recently, The Hampton Door Company Ltd was involved with the work on Royal Opera House. Working on this scheme, the company provided Royal Opera House with specialist fire doors, frames, wall panelling & soffits.
Warren Hollis, The Hampton Door Company Ltd, said:
“For a relatively new company like ours, to be involved in providing a solution and supplying products into a world famous building such as Royal Opera House, was immensely rewarding for us.”
“At The Hampton Door Company Ltd we are a solution based company that works closely with our customers through each stage of the process. This is something we’re very proud of.”