We provided structural, geotechnical and fire engineering for this stunning, state-of-the art venue which, to quote the Academy’s Principal, Jonathan Freeman-Attwood, “will have a transformational effect on the professional prospects of the world’s most talented young musicians.”
The redevelopment of the theatre, which originally opened in 1976, has increased seating capacity from 230 to 311 people and provides an outstanding and versatile venue for cutting-edge performance and recording.
Increase in the capacity of the opera theatre which now seats 309
Number of retained reinforced columns, three of which had to be strengthened
Number of seats in the new recital hall perched above the opera house
It’s been a unique and extremely complicated project – Daniel Cowan likened it to ‘squeezing a quart into a pint pot’ due to the challenges of increasing performance space within the confines of the existing building structure. The new design by Ian Ritchie Architects features a new cantilever balcony, which holds most of the additional seating, and also brings the audience closer to the stage on all sides, as in a traditional opera house, with improved sight lines and full accessibility. The orchestra pit has been enlarged to create more space for instrumental performers, and a greatly enlarged fly tower and stage wing have been added. Rigging equipment for the stage machinery, stage lighting and new lights for the theatre and balcony have been integrated into the complex steelwork of the new ceiling without detracting from its intricate curving designs.
Above the theatre a rooftop recital hall seating 100 people also serves as a rehearsal space and a hi-tech recording studio. A new roof spanning the recital area features a glass cupola, with a special glazed oculus at its centre. The theatre and recital hall are acoustically separated, but both back on to an airy internal space that leads directly to the Academy’s main staircase. This in turn has been opened out to improve the way people move around the building and transform the way it is used.
To support the additional weight of the entire scheme, small pali radice piles have been used to strengthen the foundations. With space and access at a premium, this efficient solution removes the need for load-bearing ground beams as well as saving on construction time.
The Royal Academy of Music is one of the world’s leading conservatoires, providing undergraduate and postgraduate training across instrumental performance, composition, jazz, musical theatre and opera. Its famous alumni include John Taverner, Simon Rattle, Katherine Jenkins, Joe Jackson, Elton John and Annie Lennox. These new facilities create a truly professional environment to develop the future generations of musicians who will follow in their footsteps.