News: Laban building wins Stirling Architecture Prize

Wednesday 22 October 2003

Laban wins Stirling Architecture Prize
The new Laban centre for dance has been awarded the Stirling Architecture prize. Architects Herzog & de Meuron, who also designed Tate Modern, were presented with a cheque for £20,000 from George Ferguson, President of the RIBA and Chair of the RIBA Stirling Prize jury at a ceremony at Explore@Bristol, the science centre, on 11 October, with the results broadcast on Channel 4.

Laban opened in Deptford in February this year. It was the bookies’ and critics’ favourite from the outset, was judged to be the building which had made the greatest contribution to British architecture in the past year. Novelist Julian Barnes summed up the feelings of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Stirling Prize jury: “It hits you straight between the eyes as soon as you get there. It has the same movement, youth, agility, pizzazz, front to it that its students have – it’s very seductive. The immediate impact on everyone as we arrived was to go wow.”

The Rt. Hon. Tessa Jowell MP, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, who opened the building in February 2003, said: “What wonderful news. Laban is a worthy winner. Seeing that fabulous building for the first time quite took my breath away. Laban is a magnificent piece of architecture. It is a resource for dancers, teachers and the whole community, I have no doubt that Laban will become for Deptford what the Angel of the North was for the North East, a source of pride and love for everyone who lives there.”

The building stands on Deptford Creekside in South East London. It has been upheld not only as a major new cultural landmark for London but also as a key focus for the cultural, physical and social regeneration of South East London. Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone said “I am delighted that Laban has won this prestigious award. This stunning building houses a world class institute for contemporary dance training as well as valuable community facilities. It provides a vital economic boost to aid the regeneration of this area of London.”

The Laban building received support from, amongst others, Arts Council England through National Lottery Funds, the London Development Agency, and the London Boroughs of Lewisham and Greenwich.

Joan Ruddock MP for Lewisham and Deptford said: “Laban is a unique building and an outstanding example of architectural excellence. Home to one of the world’s leading dance institutions, this state of the art building has had an enormous impact on the local environment and community. I am absolutely thrilled that it is receiving the national recognition it deserves.”

Anthony Bowne, Laban’s Director who also attended the awards commented: “This is a fantastic accolade for a fantastic building. Herzog & de Meuron have designed for us a building which has opened up a wealth of new possibilities we could never have anticipated when we embarked on the process to build a new home in the mid-1990’s. We can deliver unrivalled dance training experiences for students alongside offering the local community a unique arts experience.”

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“The Laban centre… has brought glamour to an old London district which for many years has been in need of cultural or indeed any kind of investment.
Not since the early 18th century has Deptford been the focus of such happy artistic scrutiny. A shimmering, translucent building that changes colour according to the light, the Laban centre is a fine design by a bullet-proof architectural team which has been unable to put a foot wrong since the 1990s.”
Jonathan Glancey, Guardian, 13 Oct 03

“The architects had been favourites for the Stirling Prize because the Laban pushes precisely the right buttons: it’s innovative in design and has contributed to urban regeneration.” The competition did not possess “the X-factor, and the Laban Centre offered two: a glacially pure outer form – the opposite of its locale – and a brilliant arrangement of internal spaces.”
Jay Merrick, Independent, 13 Oct.03

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“Designed by Herzog and de Meuron, the Swiss architect heroes of the munificently populist Tate Modern, here is a building that is all things to all men, women, dancers and architectural judges. Handsome, alluring, practical, uplifting, inventive, an architectural gem in a run-down part of town, the Laban is the bookies’ favourite, and anyone can see why.”

Jonathan Glancey, Guardian, 12 Sept 03

Archive story: February 03

A new Cultural Landmark for London
Laban’s new £22 million building, designed by acclaimed Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron, will be opened by the Rt Hon Tessa Jowell MP, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, on Wednesday 5 February 2003.

Laban is one of Europe’s leading institutions for contemporary dance training and dance-related studies. The new building, situated on a two-acre site on Deptford Creekside, is a major new cultural landmark for London and is the largest purpose-built contemporary dance space in the world. The building will create a powerful, focus for the ongoing physical and social regeneration of Deptford and the surrounding area.

The new facilities include a 300-seat theatre, 13 dance studios, spaces for teaching, rehearsals and public classes, a library and archive, dance health facilities, a 100-seat lecture theatre, a café-bar, a dedicated studio and meeting room for use by local schools and community groups, and public gardens.

Laban is named after Rudolf Laban (1879 – 1958), a Hungarian visionary who was one of the founding figures of modern European dance. He fled Nazi Germany and settled in Britain in 1948 where he established the Art of Movement Studio in Manchester. This later became the Laban Centre for Movement and Dance, and was relocated to New Cross in South London under the Directorship of Marion North. Laban developed Britain’s first BA (Hons) and MA Dance degree courses. Graduates include Matthew Bourne of New Adventures and Lea Anderson of The Cholmondeleys and The Featherstonehaughs.

Laban is the first building in Britain to be completely designed by Herzog & de Meuron, who won an international architectural competition for the project in 1997. Best-known for their acclaimed designs for Tate Modern, they were awarded the Pritzker Prize in 2001.

The architects have worked in close collaboration with leading artist Michael Craig-Martin on the colour scheme for Laban. The 7800 m2 building has a revolutionary semi-translucent cladding: by day, the regular activities of Laban – training, rehearsals, research and workshops – are semi-visible through the walls from the outside; by night, Laban acts as a coloured lantern or beacon, radiating light out onto the surrounding area and along Deptford Creekside. A mural by the artist has also been commissioned for the walls of the building’s main concourse.

The exterior appearance
shifts according to the time of day, the weather conditions and the activites going on inside the Centre. By day, the semi-reflective, semi-translucent polycarbonate both mirrors the passing weather and allows the regular activity of the Centre – dance classes, rehearsals and workshops – to be semi-visible through the walls. By night, the Centre becomes a coloured lantern or beacon: light and movement will spill out, illuminating the surrounding public gardens along Deptford Creek and providing a vibrant new landmark for the locality.

The design
is emblematic of the Centre’s relationship with its local community and wider society – a vibrant inspiring focal point, accessible and welcoming to all, full of movement, colour and life.
The integrated use of colour and light throughout the building, inside and out, is the result of a unique design collaboration between Herzog & de Meuron and Michael Craig-Martin, the artist and influential teacher, whose signature colours are very much in evidence. Unusually, Craig-Martin worked side by side with the architects on the design process from the very beginning, to the extent that it is hard to discern where the work of the architects stops and the artist begins.

Herzog & de Meuron
who last year won the Pritzker Prize for their outstanding contributions to the progress of architecture, have become famous for working with artist collaborators, including a previous joint project with Craig-Martin on the Swiss Light, the polycarbonate box which illuminates the top of Tate Modern’s chimney. Their work on the Laban Centre London takes this process to new heights.

Harry Gugger of the four senior partners at Herzog & de Meuron, said: “Dance brings together so many different fields of the arts – music, the performing arts – but less the fine arts, painting and sculpture, and that’s why it was so important for us to bring in this element through our collaboration with Michael Craig-Martin. We wanted to have all the arts unified – architecture, fine arts, performing arts and music.”

Giles Worsley, Telegraph, 28 Jan.03
Jonathan Glancey, Guardian, 27 Jan 03
Deyan Sudjic, Observer, 24 June 01

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