The new Dance Studios, designed by Burrell Foley Fischer LLP have been photographed by Gentle Visions Photography.
Dance as a discipline demands a considerable amount of space and the consequent footprint (918 sq m) of the five new studios to be accommodated within the historic grounds presented a significant challenge, especially on a low budget. Ballet technique, in particular, is based on a lightness of expression, defying the pull of gravity and so vertical space, height and light to enhance the sculptural form of the dancers’ bodies are important ingredients of the physical space.
Because of the new building’s potential bulk, a decision was made to relate it to the wooded setting, taking a soft approach to its architectural form, which would sit comfortably in a green corner of the site. The new studios are broken into two blocks, with the first part comprising two studios aligning with the orthogonal layout of existing buildings and the second block of three studios fronting the exit from the grotto tunnel and aligning with the former tennis court and adjacent Park Street just beyond the school boundary. A low, flat roofed zone forming a social foyer space and informal teaching area links the two taller parts of the building housing the studio spaces.
The internal heights of the dance studios reach 6.0 m at their curved apex and reduce to 4.0 m towards the eaves. Externally, the eaves are kept intentionally low to reduce the profile of the building while the curved apex and wild flower meadow roof soften the building into the landscape. Randomly spaced red cedar posts along the extended elevations echo the vertical tree trunks on the site, while new trees were planted to layer the building into its setting. The diffused quality of natural light, the essential medium through which dancers move, and the well tempered acoustic, provides an uplifting environment for dance.