Stanton Williams’ £50.7 million transformation of the Royal Opera House has won multiple awards, including the RIBA National and London awards in 2019. Here, the architect and client talk us through the project.
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Client: Alex Beard CBE, chief executive, Royal Opera House
Stanton Williams’ stunning transformation of the Royal Opera House, one of the world’s most iconic theatres and home to the Royal Ballet and Royal Opera companies, signals that this great arts institution is now open to all, part of our shared cultural fabric, at the heart of London’s theatreland.
Stanton Williams’ beautiful designs and bold spatial interventions amplify the Royal Opera House ‘Open Up’ mission to take down barriers – both physical and social – and to invite new audiences and generations to share in the excellence and theatricality of our resident performing companies each and every day, alongside packed houses enjoying the world’s greatest ballet and opera talents every evening in two beautiful world-class theatres: one epic in scale and one intimate.
Striking the right balance between heritage and 21st century life – the architectural reinvention manages to both celebrate and share the magic of ballet and opera, large scale lyric theatre of the highest quality, with new and future audiences. Improved access and transparency, a completely new Linbury Theatre and the new foyers, terraces, cafes, bars, restaurant and retail facilities extend the life of Royal Opera House outside of performance hours to allow for informal encounters between people and art, and a more enjoyable experience for all our audiences.
Since reopening its doors, the Royal Opera House has seen a 72% increase in visitors, which is well ahead of target. The Royal Opera House is now more than ever a part of the vibrant and diverse fabric of London and the cultural life of the country, setting the agenda for what a performing arts institution should aspire to be in the 21st century.
Architect: Alan Stanton OBE RA, principal director, Stanton Williams
Our role was to give physical manifestation to the cultural change happening at the Royal Opera House, becoming a significant part of its rebirth as a democratic cultural hub for London.
Our ’Open Up’ transformation did just that, by opening up what had previously been a fairly constrained set of spaces to the world outside. The Bow Street extension presents a welcoming public face to the building while the expanded and interlinked foyer spaces breathe new energy into front-of-house areas. The new Linbury Theatre is a high-quality performance space that already makes an important contribution to the work of the Royal Opera House as one of the world’s preeminent opera houses. The artistic magic spills out of the auditoriums – into the new Linbury foyer and revitalised in-between spaces, which now become the informal backdrop to lunchtime concerts, performance, dance and family events.
The transformation allowed the Royal Opera House to open to the public every day from 10am, welcoming visitors to the new café, restaurants, shop and events offered throughout the day. Combined with a new terrace overlooking Bow Street and a refurbished Amphitheatre Terrace over the Covent Garden Piazza, these new and reactivated spaces offer opportunities for people to meet, interact, spend time and share in the legacy and creative allure of the Royal Opera House.
One year in, we are delighted to see this cherished cultural icon bursting with life and artistic excitement and warmly welcoming friends, old and new.
The Royal Opera House re-opened its doors almost one year ago following Stanton Williams’ extensive renovation. OnOffice catches a matinée and a moment to see how the building is holding up one year in