Talent House opens in East London

Talent House opens in east London to nurture diverse talent in the arts

The Talent House is an enclave for London’s budding art talent

Sugar House Island is still a work in progress, with construction workers not expected to leave until 2024, but there is already an atmosphere of the future emerging. Not far from Stratford and the Olympic Park, a range of solid mid-rise buildings will sit alongside some of the area’s old warehouses and factories. In one of these older buildings, formerly owned by an ink factory, The Talent House will be established. The Talent House hosts two organizations: UD Music – formed in 2000 to provide a platform for the next generation of black music artists, entrepreneurs and creatives; and East London Dance – which champions dancers and producers from the contemporary and street dance genre.

The shared building exudes vitality, with a natural interplay between the architecture and the passionate people who work in it. Entering a glass-enclosed atrium from the street is just as likely to find a troupe of dancers walking through an impromptu performance as a group of producers finalizing final plans for a performance later that day. This is a recurring theme within the building; Each room is suitable for collecting, designing and exchanging.

The extension to the original factory building was completed by Waugh Thistleton Architects, but the planning and design details were carried out by Citizens Design Bureau. Although the new wing is exclusive to UD Music members, the shared facilities, Templo Signposts, and community staircase allow for a clean connection between the two organizations. The stairwell and corridors connecting the two parts of the building are the only places where the building’s cross-laminated timber construction is visible. Elsewhere it has been encased in panels designed to improve aesthetics and acoustics.

On the ground floor, a shared social hub is lit by natural light pouring in through the original large openings – and provides a place for debriefing and socializing. Opposite in the new wing there are a number of classrooms; a 21-seat technical lab for entry-level music education and production; a library; and an auditorium that doubles as a flexible event space. On the level above is a maze of vocal booths and music production rooms alongside a large live room. All of these rooms have been finished to the highest acoustic standards and are fully equipped with consoles and audio equipment to create musical magic. These spaces are all part of the feasibility strategy for the building, ensuring it is a key element in designing and engaging with black culture in London.

Also on the first floor are the shared offices for the two organizations, with dotted plywood wall paneling repeated throughout the building. Citizens Design Bureau has clearly thought through end-user needs with a range of workspaces: meeting booths, open hot-desking areas and quiet pods for focused work. The bespoke plywood desks, scattered throughout the offices and throughout the building, have a sophisticated ‘raw and finished’ look, designed by architect Katy Marks specifically for The Talent House.

At the top of the original building, East London Dance has its largest dance studio, a vaulted space lit from above through a large circular opening in the north wall. It is a clean and freshly finished space ready to be occupied. This space typifies the approach throughout the building. “Everyone is welcome here,” says Pamela McCormick, director at UD Music.

Between UD Music and East London Dance, around 65 per cent of end-users in some of London’s poorest boroughs are from a BAME background, yet the design doesn’t appropriate cliche motifs to make it an icon. The £4.1m budget has clearly worked hard and produced a sophisticated building befitting a sophisticated talent development platform. §

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