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Broadway Malyan design performing arts centre for South Hampstead High School
17th April 2019

A top London independent school whose alumnae include a host of leading figures from the world of entertainment has commissioned Broadway Malyan to design a state-of-the-art performance venue.

The £3m project will see the transformation of Waterlow Hall at South Hampstead High School into a fully flexible performing arts centre that can accommodate 12 different layouts. An indispensable feature of the new Waterlow Hall is that it can be used as a professional standard concert hall that can accommodate an audience of up to 400 and musical ensemble.

The girls’ school in north west London, which is part of the Girl’s Day School Trust (GDST), was largely rebuilt in 2014 and the Waterlow Hall project is part of an eight-year masterplan that will also include refurbishing the junior school.

A sketch of the gantry system in Waterlow Hall at South Hampstead High School, which has been remodelled by Broadway Malynan

The school has long had a reputation for excellence in the creative arts and has been the launchpad for a diverse range of artists, musicians and performers including Academy Award nominee Helena Bonham Carter, Murder She Wrote star Angela Lansbury, award-winning author Fay Weldon and Garbage lead singer Shirley Manson.

Dan Fleming, who led the design project for Broadway Malyan, said the aspiration for the project was to create a facility that continued to elevate the school’s performing arts offer while also providing a high quality venue that could be used by both the school and the local community.

He said: “Waterlow Hall is currently a functional space used by the school for exams and assemblies and some performances but it is a visually unappealing space, suffers from poor acoustics and lacks the necessary infrastructure and flexibility to meet the school’s needs.

“The design proposal works within the spatial constraints of the existing structure to create a performance space that focuses on supporting and encouraging creativity at the new ‘heart’ of South Hampstead High School. It will dramatically transform the atmosphere and experience for both performer and audience while providing significant additional utility in the everyday life of the school.”

“It will dramatically transform the atmosphere and experience for both performer and audience while providing significant additional utility in the everyday life of the school.”
Dan Fleming, Architect, Broadway Malyan
A CGI of a performance at Waterlow Hall at South Hampstead High School, which has been redesigned by Broadway Malyan

The refurbishment will include the installation of a new floating timber floor throughout the hall and rhomboid tiered seating that will retract back into a concealed storage cupboard when they are not required.

The project will also include the installation of a decorative LED lighting system inspired by that used in the Canadian National Music Centre in Calgary, dramatically amplifying the performance space while also having the ability to adapt to the diverse lighting requirements in the hall.

A new mezzanine balcony is being constructed opposite the stage for a new sound and lighting control room and this will be attached to a bespoke technical gantry that runs around the perimeter of the hall.

The introduction of a technical gantry will provide safe and secure access to the theatrical equipment at high level improving user operation, maintenance and functionality of the hall as a performance space, while also creating a unique teaching environment for students and staff.

The walls, ceiling and technical gantry have all been designed to optimise the acoustic performance of the hall with faceted panels and vertical timber battens lining the entire perimeter of the space, referencing the design concept of a magical woodland screen to create a warm, neutral canvas for each performance.

The new gantry at Waterlow Hall, which has been redesigned by Broadway Malyan

As well as improving the hall’s acoustics, the timber lining and technical gantry conceals unsightly services such as ventilation and electrical containment while also providing a strong symmetrical & functional, support system without compromising the design aesthetic.

Broadway Malyan has worked with a range of specialised consultants on the project including Mick Way from Theatretech, who has been involved in the design of more than 100 performance venues around the world.

The first two phases of the project, which has included the removal of redundant services, the fitting of a new external door, acoustic treatment of the ceiling and the construction of steel works for the technical gantry, have all now been completed. The final phase of works is set to start in the summer 2019.

A drawing of the new Waterlow Hall at South Hampstead High School, which has been remodelled by Broadway Malyna

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