In 2001 several architects were interviewed to design a new building to provide ideal conditions for the diverse and demanding requirements of the company. The programme comprised four distinct parts: Ballet, Wardrobe, Administration and Technical.
The scheme design that we presented at competition stage established four primary architectural strategies, and these remain in the completed project:
• A strong visual connection between Tramway’s internal ‘street’ and the new ‘route’ up into Scottish Ballet’s building • A ‘Court’ space that would form a social focus and a ‘heart’ for the whole company • Studio 1 sitting above the higher workshop area and set back from the perimeter of the site to assist with height and massing concerns from Development Control • Well proportioned rehearsal spaces, naturally lit and ventilated at high level and utilising exposed ‘thermal mass’ to create a good working environment for the dancers
The completed building is organised by its section with the technical areas at ground floor; administration and wardrobe areas located at first floor and dance related activity at the top of the building. This ‘stratification’ of the design answered the programmatic needs of the company but raised concerns that departments might inadvertently isolate themselves from one another. To ensure that creative communication could flourish in the new building, the team developed the primary circulation routes in the new building, ensuring that a variety of activities would enliven them and then focussed these routes on an internal ‘social court’ - a wood lined space, lit with a large south facing skylight that forms the heart of the both the building and the company.
Large internal windows connect this social space down to the technical areas and allow glimpsed views up to the dance studios. The ‘green room’ (a relaxation area with kitchen facilities, internet access and comfy seating) opens onto this space as does the wardrobe department which has a large glazed wall, overlooking and animating Pollokshaws Road allowing glimpsed views of the elaborate costumes being made inside.
The design and layout of rehearsal Studios 2 & 3 which front onto Pollokshaws Road, adopt a natural light and ventilation strategy, using east facing clerestory windows and skylights and help reduce the building’s carbon emissions. Studio 1 is the main focus of the company’s work and receives special architectural treatment. Nine trapezoidal west facing skylights direct daylight into the space. A picture window on the north of the studio captures the view back to the centre of Glasgow.
Externally the building uses a profiled anodised aluminium cladding in ‘striated’ bands. The material has a reflective quality that diffuses the changing tones of daylight throughout the year. Crisply detailed aluminium cornices set between the bands of cladding cast shadows across the elevations and help to animate and give scale to the building. The upper elevations of the building have a gold anodised finish that accentuate and break up the mass of the façade onto Pollokshaws Road, but also create dramatic glowing reflections across the building when the sun is low in the sky. Pigmented pre-cast concrete cladding panels at street level, make the building robust at places where it needs to deal with the day-to-day activity of the city.