English National Ballet

London City Island, UK

In an unprecedented move, the English National Ballet and its associated training institution, the English National Ballet School have been rehoused in a shared facility designed to support teaching, training and rehearsals in the centre of Ballymore’s London City Island in East London.

The Island is a major redevelopment project by architect Glenn Howells that that has provided 1,706 homes for a previously deprived area. The English National Ballet building is at the heart of this new neighbourhood, bringing together residential and various arts and cultural facilities to create a new creative hub in East London.

The facility includes eight large studio spaces and public spaces on the ground floor to encourage engagement with the local community. It also features a translucent facade which allows the creative process to be shared with the public, inside and outside the building.


Sold on the idea of a glowing white building, the developer set Buro Happold the challenge of achieving a lantern like appearance. With the majority of Glenn Howells’ architectural design already in place, sections of facade had limited available space for luminaires, meaning our team had to be flexible in their approach and work closely with the architect to create a lighting system for the existing facade design.

Motivated to create the ideal space to develop their world-class artists, English National Ballet and English National Ballet School are moving together to a new, purpose-built home. Image: Buro Happold


The lighting team embraced this challenge, aiming to achieve a gemlike presence in the darkness, whilst respecting the surroundings. Guiding the client and developer on best practice and practical solutions, a comprehensive but simple integrated system of lighting was developed. Physical mock-ups were carried out to test luminaire specifications and the practicality of a specially designed mechanical track and rail system, created to facilitate the installation of luminaires within hard to access areas.

The facade lighting uses a linear LED luminaire which was adapted with specific optics and output to meet the requirements of the design. This simple and adaptable scheme allowed one manufacturer to supply for the majority of the facade, simplifying procurement and installation.The team expanded the design to incorporate additional lighting elements in the entrance canopy and ground floor perimeter, these combined create a welcoming threshold light that connects with the landscape.

Located at London City Island, the new building will afford the company unprecedented space to create outstanding ballet, which we will be accessible to more people than ever before. Image: Buro Happold


The new building significantly expands the ballet’s current accommodation, providing a sleek and eye-catching design. Translucent walls, large windows and soft, glowing lighting are design features that open up the building – and the ballet – to the wider community, bringing the high art of ballet to London City Island.

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