In 1997 Herzog & de Meuron won the international design competition to build the new Laban building. The building creates a powerful, highly visible focus for the ongoing regeneration of Deptford and the surrounding area. Great care was taken by the architects to respect existing features in the area including nearby St. Paul’s in Deptford. Likewise, the impact of the building on the local flora and fauna of the Creek has been carefully considered. The roof, for example, incorporates a ‘brown roof’, a special habitat for the Black Redstart, one of the UK’s rarest birds.
Visual artist Michael Craig-Martin collaborated with the architects on the bold decorative scheme for the exterior and some elements of the interior. The structure is clad in a semi-translucent, coloured polycarbonate punctuated by large clear windows. The polycarbonate cloaks the building in semitransparent shades of lime, turquoise and magenta. By day, the centre’s activities are semi-visible from the outside. By night, the building acts as a coloured beacon, radiating light out into the surrounding area.
Inside, the building is structured as an urban ‘streetscape’, a series of corridors, interior courtyards and meeting places, centred round the main theatre space - the literal and metaphorical heart of the building. Again, light and colour play key roles in the interior, serving practical and aesthetic purposes. Colour is used as an aid to orientation and to lend a distinct identity to each sector of the building. The building has been designed to ensure full access for people with a wide range of disabilities from wheelchair users to those with sensory and learning difficulties.
The project was completed in 2003.