The Royal Academy of Music Unveils New and Transformed Spaces
- The Susie Sainsbury Theatre.
- New Recital Hall (Rooftop).
- Five new percussion studios, jazz room and audio-visual control room.
- 14 refurbished practice and dressing rooms.
Hidden behind the listed façade of the Royal Academy of Music’s Edwardian premises, surrounded by Grade I and Grade II listed buildings and located within the Regent’s Park conservation area, two distinct, outstanding performance spaces have been designed by Ian Ritchie Architects, alongside contractors Geoffrey Osborne Ltd, and seamlessly integrated within the historic site.
Designed for both opera and musical theatre productions, The Susie Sainsbury theatre sits at the heart of the Royal Academy. Inspired by the curved shapes of string instruments, the 309-seat cherry-lined Theatre has been acoustically refined by Arup Acoustics to deliver excellent sound qualities. The lighting deconstructs the traditional chandelier into an exploding theatre-wide galaxy of light through 600 fibre-optic crystals. Within the old concrete walls, the Theatre incorporates 40% more seating than previously through the addition of a balcony, as well as a larger orchestra pit, a stage wing and fly tower. The balcony has unimpeded views of the stage, while the larger orchestra pit allows for an expanded repertoire choice, from early to modern opera and musical theatre and improves the acoustics for musicians, performers and the audience.
Above the Theatre and acoustically isolated from all other buildings, the new 100-seat Recital Hall provides the Academy with a further 230m² space. Entirely lined in pale, lime-washed oak, an oculus floods the rooms with daylight and provides the space with a central focus. The Recital Hall has a footprint as large as that of the main stage, making it an ideal rehearsal space.
Creating a visual and physical link between the old and new buildings is the Recital Hall’s new glazed lobby, which is primarily accessed from the main stairway dating from 1911 and also a glazed lift. The new light wells reveal the previously concealed Grade II rear façade, in which bricked-up windows have been reopened.
Both of these beautifully finished, acoustically diverse spaces can be accessed independently and, together with the existing David Josefowitz Recital Hall and Duke’s Hall, complete a suite of facilities for the Academy’s ambitious student body, world-class teaching staff and for public performances.
The Academy has also opened a new audio-visual control room and 14 refurbished practice and dressing rooms, as well as five new percussion studios and a spacious new jazz teaching room.
Ian Ritchie Architects proposal to build an entirely new theatre within the space of the old one, together with a new recital hall above it, was unanimously granted planning permission and listed building consent at the first submission by Westminster City Council in February 2012. It was fully supported by officers, English Heritage and the St Marylebone Society.
The project was unusually complex due to the constrained site into which the myriad of functions of a modern opera and musical theatre were to be introduced. A close and highly co-ordinated approach by the design team enabled the successful integration of architectural and theatrical requirements with structural, acoustic, safety, mechanical and electrical systems.
Total acoustic isolation between the Theatre and Recital Hall adjoining spaces was an essential requirement. The many sensitive acoustic adjacencies were established at the initial design stage and design detail was developed from these acoustic ‘directives.’ The Recital Hall and roof-level plant rooms are structurally and acoustically isolated from each other and from the existing building structure. They float on their own concrete platform, which rests on rubber bearings separating it from the theatre and fly tower.
The project’s topping out ceremony saw the glass oculus placed on the Recital Hall roof in July 2017. The project was handed over to the client on 9th January 2018.
To view more projects from Ian Ritchie Architects, visit: www.ianritchiearchitects.co.uk