THE SKELETON OF THE ROUNDHOUSE

1992 – 1998

What do the innards of the Roundhouse look like when no one else is around?

Charcoal sketch by Hannah Coupland-Smith. 1992

I grew up in Tufnel Park and the Roundhouse building was such a fixture of Camden. I’d see it every day, falling into more and more disrepair but looking beautiful. In my first year as a student of interior architecture at Brighton university (around 1992) I arranged to get access to draw the inside of the building. I wanted to capture the dark and the light of the space.

I had the whole place to myself with the shafts of light coming through the pillars, the decay didn’t matter, there was history & magic in the room. It was just me and the space with sounds of my charcoal scratching on the paper. I went on to work in both interior architecture and film, and so I’ve remained fascinated in the potential for atmosphere and impact in different spaces.

The Roundhouse really taught me that if you celebrate the bones of a building, you showcase its internal, raw substance, you can create something really magical. Today, the trend in architecture is to cover up the skeleton which is a real missed opportunity. What I love about the Roundhouse is that it encourages artists to take inspiration from its internal architecture to create work (such as the Curtain Call installation or theatre sets that interweave with the pillars) giving it a whole new audience.

A funny thing is that I also discovered recently was that my parents got the chance to experience the skeleton of the Roundhouse all to themselves too, a couple of years after I did. My Dad worked as a technical draftsman and he and my mother were given the keys to the building to go and do some drawings and measurements in 1998 when the building was up for sale. They were surprised to discover someone living in the Roundhouse when they got there – a Nigerian Security Guard who was there to stop squatters! It is a wonderful building, venue, space. I still have my drawing and it reminds me of the simple serenity that some places can create.

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