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Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama

The newly completed Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama in Cardiff – Wales’ national music and drama conservatoire – opened in October 2011 to a new intake of students.

Won in international competition in 2007, the scheme comprises an acoustically excellent 450 seat chamber recital hall (the ‘Dora Stoutzker Hall’), a 180 seat theatre (the ‘Richard Burton Theatre’), four rehearsal studios, an exhibition gallery (the ‘Linbury Gallery’) as well as generous foyer areas, a terrace overlooking Bute Park and a new Café Bar.

The £22.5m project is funded by a grant from the Welsh Government, loan finance and £4m of philanthropic donations. The scheme has been designed to be BREEAM ‘excellent’. The new buildings are situated within the Grade I listed Bute Park. Directly across the road from the new building is Cathays Park, the civic centre of Cardiff, consisting of a number of important listed buildings.
 
Jason Flanagan, Project Director explains: ‘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 design focuses on the core needs of the college community, namely an acoustically impressive sequence of performance and learning spaces which will encourage and inspire the college’s students. The client was very specific from the outset that the new buildings should act as a catalyst for positive cultural change and help foster greater artistic collaboration across the institution.
 
Although the building appears to be a single structure it is in fact three separate new buildings and a renovated existing structure. Each performance space has been conceived separately, the individual components of the building united under a single floating roof, its height determined by the theatre fly tower.

The drama building forms a new façade on North Road while the chamber recital hall, clad with a timber screen consisting of light coloured cedar wood slats, sits amongst the park’s mature trees. Finishes of stone and timber create a sequence of warm and tactile interior spaces.
 
The new entrance to the college opens out onto Bute Park and a treble height arcade forms a new spine between the new and old accommodation, linking the constituent elements, functioning as exhibition space for a range of creative and artistic output. The Gallery also acts as the ‘lungs’ for the scheme, creating a natural stack effect which ventilates the public spaces.

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