Public   Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama

The Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama is Wales’ national music and drama conservatoire. Wrapping an existing building with a striking new façade, the college has been transformed and modernized. Won in international competition in 2007, the project has created an acoustically excellent 450 seat chamber concert hall, a 160 seat courtyard theatre, along with studio, teaching, rehearsal and foyer spaces.

Our approach was two-fold; to design the internal performance spaces from the ‘inside out’, looking at their acoustic and theatrical functionality as major drivers; whilst in parallel designing from the ‘outside in’, thinking about the civic presence of the building in its urban context. The new buildings are situated inside the Grade I listed Bute Park, where they directly face Cathays Park, the civic centre of Cardiff which consists of a number of important listed buildings.

The design focuses on the core needs of the school community, namely an acoustically impressive sequence of performance and learning spaces, encouraging and motivating the buildings’ occupants. The client was very specific from the outset that the new buildings would act as a catalyst for positive cultural change and easier department cross-fertilization.

Although the building appears to be a single structure, it is in fact three separate new buildings and a renovated existing structure. The final scheme ties the individual components of the building under a single roof, creating a unified facade, yet exposing the differing functions within. The drama building forms a new façade to the street, and the recital hall, clad with a timber screen consisting of lightly-coloured cedar wood slats, sits amongst the woods adjacent to the existing building. Interior finishes of stone and timber create warm and tactile spaces for users.

A treble-height arcade forms a spine between the new and old accommodation, linking the constituent elements whilst functioning as exhibition space for the Design & Costume Department. The space also acts as the ‘lungs’ for the scheme, as its natural stack effect ventilates the public spaces.

The project was funded by the Welsh Assembly and designed to be BREEAM ‘excellent’.

Client    Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama
Location    Cardiff, Wales
Status    Completed 2012

Area    4,400 sqm
Cost    £22.5m
Interior    FLINT
Structural & Service Engineer    Mott MacDonald
Acoustic Engineer    Arup Acoustics
Lighting Consultant    Equation Lighting
Theatre Consultant    Theatre Projects Consultancy
Landscape Architect    LDA
BREEAM Rating    Excellent

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