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Stanton Williams, Royal Opera House, London

Remodelling during Normal Operations: The Royal Opera House in London

The official re-opening of London’s opera house has brought a three-year renovation period, in which the access areas of the building have been completely rearranged, to an end. Remarkably, the building was never closed. The planning team’s greatest challenge during the refurbishment lay in the fact that not a single performance or rehearsal was to be sacrificed to the building work.

The opera house, which is located in London’s Covent Garden, was built in the 1850s according to plans by E. M. Barry. In the 1990s, Dixon Jones and BDP added an extension that became the focus of most of the recent renovation work. One exception is the iconic, barrel-vaulted entrance façade of steel and glass on Bow Street, which was also designed by Barry. Here, Stanton Williams have recreated the entryway situation with a new steel-and-glass façade on the ground floor. This juts further towards the street, leaving more space for the lobby that lies behind it.

The refurbished main foyer now connects the two main entrances to the building on Bow Street and Covent Garden Piazza respectively. Moreover, this space opens up via a horseshoe-shaped stairway to the lower level, where a second, large new feature can be found: the Lindbury Theatre has been transformed from a small studio theatre into a full-sized theatre and opera stage with seating for 400.

For the foyer, the architects employed a reduced palette of high-grade materials including Crema Marfil marble, walnut, brass and beige-coloured, smooth plastering. Violet-covered seats give the Linbury Theatre a festive, albeit somewhat eccentric, flair. Further, while the opera house will soon attract visitors throughout the day and not just for performances, it requires a suitable restaurant. This can be found on the upper level of the building, where Stanton Williams have redesigned the formerly open, protruding rooftop terrace facing Covent Garden Piazza as a glassed-in solarium.
Further information:

Interior design
: Studio Linse (Restaurant) ,Drinkall Dean (Laden)
Project management:
Platform I Equals Consulting
Cost planning:
Gardiner & Theobald
Construction management:
Rise Level 5
Light planning:
Studio Fractal
Planning of structural framework, TGA-planning:
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