The Royal Opera House ‘open up’ project is now complete following an extensive three-year construction project in which Swift Crafted played a key role in the design and procurement of the internal building finishes. This prestigious project tested our joinery manufacture and installation skills and gave us the opportunity to utilise our supply chain to procure various other specialist finishing elements. This included GRG profiled ceiling coffers and columns, STO acoustic ceiling and drylining systems, polished plaster, patinated brass and stainless steel linings, parquet flooring and tiling.
With inviting new entrances, extended foyers, bars and terraces, the heart of this project is the brand new Linbury Theatre. Working with Stanton Williams architects, the first 6 months of the joinery programme focused on designing the solid American black walnut balcony fronts for acoustic and technical performance. The design team and M&E trades would regularly meet at our joinery factory, so we could all co-ordinate the various elements that made up each bespoke unit. Due to the complexity of working with multiple radiuses and the high volume of services running through the balconies, we agreed the best approach would be to build a 1:1 softwood mock-up of the most difficult unit. Trying to fit the 24 individual runs of conduit that power speakers, AV control boxes, cameras and LED’s proved to be an extremely difficult task, requiring 3 attempts at the mock-up and ultimately a completely new fixing methodology that was put forward by SCL.
After a lengthy pre-construction phase that required the co-ordination of over 300 design drawings, as well as development of a complicated sequencing programme, our contract works on site commenced in January 2017. Due to the intricate fixing details and high quality required to satisfy a demanding architect, the team quickly realised this was going to be a challenging project. Effectively working across 3 ‘mini-sites’ from the S1 Main Foyer & Green Core, downstairs into the S2 Linbury Foyer, and down another level into the new Linbury Theatre, 3 separate teams were established to look after each individual area.
Lead by our operations director Paul Smith and senior commercial manager Jack Hearle, one team started joisting and decking out the new steelwork in the theatre, whilst two others began to set-out and build the internal walls, as well as prepare the sub-grids for GRG, STO, and acoustic slatted ceilings in the foyers.
By autumn the structural flooring and stair substrates had been formed, and balcony units installed to allow the main scaffold to be struck in the theatre. Every single ceiling and stair panel was then carefully set-out and templated before being sent to the joinery factory for machining. This proved to be critical in minimising quality issues, with less than 10 out of circa 500 bespoke panels requiring on site adaptions or replacement.
Meanwhile in the foyers, the reception hubs had started to take shape with the pocket door elevations installed and metalwork first fix for the large counter units complete. GRG ceiling coffers had been offered into position with the surrounding STO finishes underway on S1, whilst the broken-out curve in the slab of S2 had been lined ready to receive finishes.
Working closely with the M&E contractor, setting-out was a time-consuming complication at the ROH. Achieving the intricate joint lines and intersections required to satisfy the architect, whilst efficiently housing and providing access to the substantial amount of services required to satisfy the technical team was a challenge. Throughout winter 2017 and spring 2018, the lengthy finishes programme saw the joinery team rise to over 30 carpenters, accompanied by a team of 10 specialist floor fitters.
The ROH was a once-in-a-lifetime project that Swift Crafted are extremely proud to put their name against.