Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London

The project comprised the refurbishment of the existing auditorium and foyers, accommodation for the Royal Opera and Royal Ballet including rehearsal facilities and a second auditorium, reconstruction of part of the Floral Hall and a ribbon of shops around the piazza. When considering the appearance of the building and its relationship to the surrounding area, the whole project was brought together so that it could be seen as a coherent part of the city. The objectives of the project were:

+ To modernise the stage and scenery-handling facilities

+ To move the Royal Ballet to a permanent home at Covent Garden

+ To improve amenities for the public and make the theatre more accessible

+ To provide a decent canteen for the staff and performers

+ To improve rehearsal facilities

+ To bring the production workshops on site

The project was won in an open competition in 1983 by Jeremy Dixon in a joint venture with BDP.

In the reconstructed Floral Hall, one can remain for a drink or proceed through to a grand pair of escalators (visible through the glass wall) to the Amphitheatre Bar above.  Members of the audience ascending the escalator rise above the Floral Hall roof before emerging back in the building, looking into the vault of the Floral Hall itself.  Here they either remain in the upper foyer or proceed further directly onto the open loggia overlooking Covent Garden piazza. In place of the hierarchical public access of the old house – whereby the upper (i.e. cheaper) seats were reached from a separate side entrance – all members of the audience can now enter through the main Bow Street portico.  In addition, there is a new public entrance from the northeast corner of the arcade that complete Inigo Jones’s square.  Both entrances lead to the Box Office and cloakrooms directly below the Floral Hall.  The challenge of the project was to meet all requirements of the Royal Opera House and at the same time to find an architectural approach that could respond to the diversity of the site context, bounded on the one hand by the implied formality of the market square and on the other by a series of typical Covent Garden streets with their ad hoc accumulation of uses and architectural styles. In contrast to the refurbished auditorium, the fly tower (three times the height of the proscenium) and stage is a new steel frame construction, built behind the retained historic façade to Floral Street.  In addition to the auditorium there is a studio theatre in the basement and a ballet studio with audience capacity  at roof level.  The canteen, the most important social space backstage, has a southwest facing terrace overlooking Covent Garden Piazza.  The roofscape expresses the variety of the ROH activities-the fly tower, the ballet studios, the loggia and the various terraces.