Technical Study: Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts, London

Carl Turner Architects' Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts, Peckham

Carl Turner tells Elizabeth Hopkirk how he won the biggest project of his career – and then had to design it a nerve-wracking three times

The story of how Carl Turner created a £21m purpose-built home for a London theatre school has enough drama to keep an audience on the edge of their seats.

For starters, he’s designed it three times, most recently when the walls were already coming out of the ground and decisions had to be made fast in response to the Grenfell tragedy.

It also propelled his own practice from a “cottage industry” of six people in Pop Brixton, a temporary space it designed, to a “professionalised office of 21” in Hackney; a welcome opportunity, but not without its own stresses.

But the story begins back in spring 2015 when Turner was called into a “mysterious meeting” at Peckham library by Southwark council’s regeneration team, for whom he was already doing some work. It turned out the council had been approached by Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts, a drama school founded in north London in 1945. It needed a new home and had got as far as RIBA stage 3 on the conversion of Hornsey Baths before the constraints of a listed building forced them to abandon the project. After a pause the trustees decided new-build was the way to go so they started again. And Southwark had a site.

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