Sarah Waugh

Master of Architecture

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NB. Views and opinions of students in the degree show are their own and do not represent the views of the University.


The Royal Ballet School of Rotterdam (RBSR) is a bold, ambitious, ethereal building set on the River Maas, one of the main routes into the city centre. Nestled adjacent to the main shipping canal near the peninsular of Katendrecht, the non-residential ballet school is a beacon for all to see.

The final resolution of the location came from a map of the Cityscape of Rotterdam which unveiled this proposed site. Combined with the spectacular location, orientation and Royal Warrant, the building is a must see/must visit destination. The geometrical envelope has been morphed around the studios, resulting in a unique silhouette with the cross-braced steel structure clearly visible through the clear glass and Linit facade. Established adjacent to the floating stationery hotel SS Rotterdam, former head of the fleet of ships of the Holland America Line; the building represents a world-class ballet school in stature, articulated through the flowing, undulating form which provides the appearance that it is floating on water due to the stilts being set back from the form’s edge. The wider contextual surroundings required little development; some hard landscaping and slight changes to the water taxi routes, but little else, in keeping with the environmental strategy for the whole build which incorporated local materials wherever possible.

A world-class ballet school for exceptional young classical ballet dancers, the RBSR teaches students aged 15 to 19 who have obtained grade ‘Advanced 1’ or have trained for a minimum of 10 years. Students will be required to audition to secure a place, which in turn will establish the high status of the school assuring dedicated dancers. There will be no preference from social or economic backgrounds. Students will be accepted based purely on talent and potential.

The school will contribute to the world stage of classical ballet at the highest levels for generations to come. This facility will work with talented local students as well as those who have been referred to the school from around the world. The proposal will support local communities by enabling local dance schools and professionals to hire two public studios. The RBSR will be the only one in the world that allows the public to dance along side talented private ballet dancers; this will inspire young ballet dancers to train and become world-class athletes. The RBSR will rely upon the generosity of individuals, companies, trusts and foundations to continue to be able to provide world-class training and opportunities for students. Performances will be held in the auditorium to promote dancers and encourage benefactors to continue supporting the school.

The building was designed from the inside out, following a long period of diligent research, behind the scenes site visits to world-class ballet schools and interviews with multiple teachers, pianists, architects and engineers. This design ethos enabled maximum assimilation of high level knowledge, support for the final resolution and allowed the brief to be exceeded from the very beginning of the project.

Facilities include:

  • 6 World-leading rehearsal studios (4 private dance studios purely for the RBSR including a miniature Auditorium seating 200 people, plus 2 studios which the public can hire),
  • Dantzig Foyer,
  • Health Café,
  • Tea House,
  • Private and Public Changing Rooms,

Private Wellness Zone | Medical Facilities include:

  • Gym,
  • Physiotherapy,
  • Pilates,
  • Wellness Pool,
  • Hot & Cold Recovery Room,
  • Medical Office,
  • Medical Room,
  • Pointe Store.

The floor plan, inspired by the ballet dancers tools also mimics the outside contours of the nearby peninsular. Once the studios, dancer’s changing rooms and Wellness Zone | Medical Facilities were meticulously laid out, the central grand canyon was created and the envelope swiftly followed. The result is a unique undulating cross-braced steel ribbed frame, swathed in translucent glass and Linit panes. The envelope tantalisingly touches the ground, with the columns providing a nod to ballet in the form of a ballet shoe en-pointe.