In January 2003, the Royal Ballet Upper School in London moved to a newly constructed studio complex in Floral Street, adjacent to the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, where the Royal Ballet remains the resident ballet company.
A bridge was constructed between the school and the Opera House, linking the school with the theatre and the Royal Ballet Company's own studios. Wilkinson Eyre Architects the designer of the bridge received an architectural award and it is known as the Bridge of Aspiration.
Twisting high above Floral Street in Covent Garden, the Bridge of Aspiration provides the dancers of the Royal Ballet School with a direct link to the Grade 1 listed Royal Opera House. The design addresses a series of complex contextual issues, and is legible both as a fully integrated component of the buildings it links, and as an independent architectural element.
The skewed alignment and different levels of the landing points dictate the form of the crossing, which is geometrically and structurally simple. A concertina of 23 square portals with glazed intervals are supported from an aluminium spine beam. These rotate in sequence for the skew in alignment, performing a quarter-turn overall along the length of the bridge. The result is an elegant intervention high above the street, which evokes the fluidity and grace of dance.
Concept and technical solution
Visualising an effect of movement was the basic concept. Wilkinson Eyre Architects started from a simple box and twisted its sections until it reached the other building's facade. Realizing this rotating box corridor required a complex engineer awareness.
Stainless steel seemed to be an optimal choice for the material of the spine beam after a structural analysis. The beam comprises an aluminium box made from plates welded into sections, which are then bolted together. The twisted corridor was prefabricated allowing a two-hour installation. The portal frames were also made of aluminium.