Laban Dance Centre
Herzog & de Meuron

January 17, 2005 /

Deptford, London, United Kingdom

Photo: arcspace

Laban is located in south-east London, on the edge of Deptford Creek, surrounded by decaying blocks of council flats, scrapyards, and derelict industrial warehouses.

Laban is the largest school for contemporary dance in the world, and one of Europe's leading, and largest, institutions for contemporary dance artist training.

The curving facades are clad in transparent or translucent glass panels, depending
on whether the spaces behind them require a view.  
Lime, turquoise and magenta, semi-translucent polycarbonate panels, punctuated by large clear windows, are mounted in front of the glass panels, giving the building a pale magical glow.

The colors were chosen in collaboration with visual artist Michael Craig-Martin. The recently completed landscaped mounds, including an amphitheater, was designed by Vogt Architects.

Photo: arcspace

The building has the same movement, youth, agility, pizzazz, front to it that its students have.

/Julian Barnes (Juror)

Photo: arcspace

The interior is designed as an urban "streetscape", a series of corridors, interior
courtyards and meeting places, wrapped around the main theater  - the literal and metaphorical heart of the building.  Colors determine the rhythm and orientation both inside and outside the building.

Photo: arcspace


Photo: arcspace

Photo: arcspace

Photo: arcspace

All activities are intermixed and distributed on two main levels, promoting communication within the entire building. Two black, concrete spiral staircases, placed at both ends, become places for encounters. Colors determine the rhythm and orientation both inside and outside the building. In the interior Color is used as an aid to orientation and to lend a distinct identity to each sector of the building.

Three planted yards, cut in at different depths, provide daylight to the interior and
enable visual connections and spatial orientation throughout the entire building. They also mark the locations where the stairways access the main stories and the planted roof area.


Photo: arcspace

Most of the studios are on the upper floor, with a window into the corridor and natural light through the facade. Each studio is different in  size, form and color.

Photo: arcspace

The main theatre, the heart of the building, is the orientation point in the open "cityscape" of the first floor. The library and cafeteria, located behind glass walls, are visually also part of the open "cityscape."

During performances the sloping ramp "street" becomes the lobby for the 300-seat main theater.  Craig-Martin also designed The monumental wallpainting that wraps around the outside of the auditorium is also designed by Craig-Martin.

Photo: arcspace

The spiral staircase, located near the entrance, divide the two ramps inside the
building. The expansive black, sloping ramp that cuts across the building, and the narrow ramp descending to the lower theater entrance. The staircase and balustrade concrete was left rough before painting, giving the appearance of black coal. Swirling wood handrails, bendy wood, are used everywhere.

Photo: arcspace

Photo: arcspace

The shadow images of the dancers play an active part of Laban's architectural
identity. 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 Creek.


Photo: Merlin Hendy

Great care was taken by the architects to respect existing features in the area.
Deptford's St.Paul's Church, designed by Thomas Archer, is one of the finest
remaining Baroque churches in the country. The Church was an important point of
reference for the complex.
 The impact of the building on the local flora and fauna of the Creek was also carefully considered.  The roof, for example, incorporates a 'brown roof', a special habitat for the Black Redstart, one of the UK's rarest birds.

Laban is named after Rudolf Laban (1879-1958) one of the founding figures of European Modern Dance. Born in Austria-Hungary, Rudolf Laban was a dancer, choreographer and theoretician of dance and movement; a pioneer of community dance; and he played a significant role in reforming the training of dancers. Rudolf Laban made a number of advances in dance scholarship, establishing choreology (dance analysis) and inventing a system of recording movement known as Labanotation.

Herzog & de Meuron won the Stirling Prize for the Laban Dance Centre building in 2003.

Plan courtesy Herzog & de Meuron

Facts about Laban Dance Centre

Total floor area:

8,203 m2


Herzog & de Meuron  

Project team:

Jayne Barlow

Konstanze Beelitz

Christine Binswanger

Nandita Boger
Fun Budimann

Michael Casey

Peter Cookson

Irinia Davidovivi

Rita Maria Diniz

Hernan Fierro-Castro

Alice Foxley

Harry Gugger

Jacques Herzog

Detlef Horisberger

Jean Paul Jaccaud

Nick Lyons

Stefan Marbach

Christoph Mauz

Pierre de Meuron

Christopher Pannett

Kristen Whittle


Michael Craig-Martin (Artist), London, United Kingdom

Main Contractor: 

Ballast Construction, London, United Kingdom

Structural Engineering:


Whitby Bird & Partners, United Kingdom

Landscape Design:


Vogt Landschaftarchitekten, Zurich, Switzerland

Theatre Consultant: 

Carr & Angier, Bath, United Kingdom

Acoustic Engineering:


Arup Acoustics, Winchester, United Kingdom

Project Management: 


Arup Project Management, United Kingdom


The Laban Centre

Last updated: December 19, 2013

See also

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