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South Hampstead High School Performing Arts Centre

New state-of-the-art performance venue for prestigious school

The £3m project has seen the transformation of Waterlow Hall at South Hampstead High School into a fully flexible performing arts centre. The professional standard concert hall seats an audience of up to 400 plus a musical ensemble and can accommodate up to 12 different layouts.

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.

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.

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 has dramatically transformed the atmosphere and experience for both performer and audience whilst also providing significant additional utility in the everyday life of the school.

The refurbishment included the installation of a new floating timber floor throughout the hall and rhomboid tiered seating that retracts back into a concealed storage cupboard when not required.

The project also includes the installation of a decorative LED lighting system, dramatically amplifying the performance space while also having the ability to adapt to the diverse lighting requirements in the hall.

A new mezzanine balcony has been constructed opposite the stage for a new sound and lighting control room, attached to a bespoke technical gantry that runs around the perimeter of the hall.

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.

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.

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