Collaborative creations The rsa Art for Architecture Award Scheme funds collaborations between architects and artists. Six recipients of awards reflect on their experiences
Architecture is a culture of collaboration. Despite this, architecture as a contemporary practice is often limited to collaborating within the largely quantifiable disciplines of traditional design team structures. In working with Antoni Malinowski at the Royal Court Theatre, both artist and architect are exposed to an enhanced scrutiny of reality, generating proposals that could not have been drawn solely from individual experience or resources.
Although we had passed the initial concept design stage by the time Malinowski joined the project, a creative dialogue with the theatre's artistic directors, artists and managers had been fostered from the outset. The theatre and the design team jointly explored solutions with Malinowski, not just to the immediate problems of the Royal Court as a working theatre but to the wider issues of accessibility and the grounding of the theatre within the city.
Detail decisions on the treatment of the existing fabric have been developed together with Malinowski on site as the original anatomy has been revealed during the process of selective demolition. What emerged through working with him was a highly compatible understanding of the nature of space, architecture and the city. This became focused on a process of reinforcing significant journeys and interfaces, the most significant threshold being that between the city - Sloane Square - and the auditorium, which is currently thwarted by the visually impenetrable facade of the theatre.
The main collaborative intervention is to unite these spaces of theatre and square, dramatically extending the qualities of both constituent parts to forge a durable and versatile entity. By increasing the transparency of the facade and through careful use of pigment and illumination, the interior wall enclosing the auditorium will be made visible from outside as the threshold to the world of the theatre.
Malinowski's specific artwork will be the treatment of this surface, which has been remodelled to form a curved wall painted an intense vermilion. Connecting all three floors of public foyer, it will define the volume of the auditorium as a tangible presence.
Ann Griffin is with Haworth Tompkins Architects