Friday 17 April 2015

Royal College of Music - a dramatic new development

Artists Impression: New quad viewed from cafe in foyer at RCM - John Simpson architects
Artists Impression: New quad viewed from cafe in foyer at RCM
John Simpson architects
The composer George Dyson is famous for the fact that, when he became principal of the Royal College of Music one of his first acts was to re-organise the Ladies' lavatories! Dyson devoted a great deal of his energies to the college plant at a time when the student body was expanding and money was tight. This was because he understood the importance of surroundings on doing good work. 

This week the Royal College of Music (RCM) announced a spectacular new plan to further enhance the plant. As anyone who has visited the college's Britten Theatre (see my review of the recent performance of Adriano in Siria there), the imposing college building hides a welter of buildings arranged round courtyards. Now the college has commissioned John Simpson architects to open up on of the courtyards to provide improved facilities and better circulation. The image to the right is the artist's impression of the new courtyard.

RCM courtyards today from the air - photo Google Earth
RCM courtyards today from the air - photo Google Earth
Britten Theatre to the left, new courtyard space to right
Prince Consort Road at top of picture

The project is planned to start in 2016, and will take two years and cost £25 million. The resulting works will give the students, and us:-
  • Two new performance spaces (of 150+ and 90+ seats) with the latest technology in acoustics and lighting.
  • Additional music practice rooms.
  • A permanent and accessible home for the RCM’s Museum of Music to display the RCM’s Special Collections in an interactive context.
  • Additional recording and broadcasting capability.
  • Improved access and circulation around the site, connecting together the RCM’s key spaces; the Amaryllis Fleming Concert Hall, the Britten Theatre, the Library and the Museum of Music.
  • An enriched experience for the general public to include new foyer and meeting spaces for visitors, participants on RCM’s community learning programmes, students and RCM professors, a new café/restaurant area, a theatre bar and additional visitor facilities.
  • Increased step-free access to the RCM’s facilities.
It is an impressive and much needed project. As anyone who has ventured beyond the concert hall or the theatre will testify, the RCM is a positive rabbit warren and needs a strong hand to create order out of the chaos of over 100 years of expansion on a limited site.

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