British Harlequin plc has recently completed a prestigious contract for dance flooring at Laban’s brand-new building at Deptford Creekside. This spectacular new building is dramatic and colourful thanks to an exciting collaboration between award-winning Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron and internationally acclaimed artist Michael Craig-Martin.
Laban is one of Europe’s leading institutions for dance artist training and the new building has been upheld as a new cultural landmark for London. Within this vibrant purpose-built, state-of-the-art new building, dancers can rest assured that their rehearsal work in the studios and their performances in the theatre will all take place using the same tried and tested Harlequin dance floors they will experience in studios and dance stages worldwide. But before the final specification for the sprung floors was confirmed, two dancers flew to Natick, Boston to test out a similar floor for themselves. Their verdict was the final approval in selecting Harlequin’s Liberty floor.
Harlequin supplied and installed floors in all dance studios and on the theatre stage.
As sole suppliers and installers of the ‘Timber and Vinyl’ tender sub-contract within the construction project, British Harlequin’s Contract Division worked closely with main contractors Ballast Construction to supply and install 1,762 m2 of Harlequin Liberty sprung floor panels and Harlequin Studio vinyl floors in all 13 main rehearsal studios and the DMT clinic, an unsprung maple floor of 138 m2 in the Pilates studio, a further 200 m2 sprung maple floor for the theatre stage, and 66 m2 more in the wings. British Harlequin’s contract also included the demanding construction of a plywood floor of 536 m2 in Laban’s library and archive, based on a stepped and ramped sub floor resting on 50 mm blocks, designed to permit forced ventilation under the entire floor area.
The understated neutral greys of the dance studios contrast dramatically with the bold colours of the exterior cladding and the corridors, or streets. For a dancer entering a typical studio, there is a resin floor area that dancers walk across to reach the main studio sprung floor and in the corner of each studio
Harlequin has provided rectangles of Harlequin Cascade vinyl for the pianos to stand on. The rooms all have a single, large window offering glimpses of the Thames and famous landmarks, with the lower section of the main studio area walls mirrored and acoustic panels mounted above towards the exposed concrete roofing, from which are suspended rows of low-glare T5 fluorescent lighting. Harlequin Studio vinyl floor surface is laid on the underlying Liberty sprung floor panels with joins permanently heat welded. Liberty by Harlequin is a ‘floating’ floor system – used here in the permanent dance studio installation.
Other versions are available for touring. Designed for safety and suitable for a range of dance disciplines, when combined with a Harlequin dance surface, Liberty allows performers to concentrate on their art without fear of falling or injury. Panels are formed from multiple layers of birch, bonded with waterproof phenolic resins to form an 18 mm thick and stable substructure for the vinyl surface. Each full size panel has 45 dual density elastomer blocks spaced at regular centres, which absorb impact and give a consistently even energy return over the entire surface of the floor. Harlequin Liberty sprung floor panels combine consistent shock absorption and uniform suspension across the whole floor, with no hard spots at the joints. An unusual feature of this project was the use of under-floor heating with water pipes buried in the screed. Tests were conducted in conjunction with the manufacturers Wirsbo, to ensure that sufficient heat would pass through the floor without detriment to the floor and vinyl surface and achieve a specified heat value at the floor surface. The whole floor is finished off with matching colour vinyl skirting.
Maple flooring in Pilates studio and on stage
In addition to the dance studios, Laban also boasts a Pilates studio, a 100-seat lecture theatre and a 300-seat theatre. Premium grade maple is laid in accordance with architectural specification to a sub-floor structure using tongue and groove interlocking with expansion joints at regular intervals to allow for movement. The final treatment comprises sanding, followed by four coats of matt sealer to bring out the full richness of the wood.
Commenting on British Harlequin’s involvement, Project Manager Monica Arnott explained that “Harlequin has supplied vinyl dance surfaces to Laban at their previous home in New Cross, and we were delighted when Harlequin’s new sprung floors were specified during the early stages of the project”. Ray Lloyds, Harlequin’s UK Contract Manager, brought his team on site in July to lead the installation programme, with work continuing around other trades into October. Stephen Munn, Head of Theatre Programme at Laban comments: “We have had a long relationship with Harlequin and we are delighted that this has been continued into our new building project. The floors that have been installed are of the highest standard and we have heard nothing but praise from both our staff and students”.