BFLS designs Welsh national conservatoire's new performance venue with access for all
The Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama is Wales’ national conservatoire. BFLS won an international design competition in 2007 to design a new building containing a 450-seat concert hall, a 150-seat theatre and a cafe / bar, all of which will be accessible to the public, as well as rehearsal spaces and movement studios for students.
The brief asked the design team to create not only world-class performance spaces that inspire learning and nurture creativity but also a landmark civic building that would make sensitive reference to its context in its design and use of material.
The college is set within a Grade I listed Royal Park, near the magnificent Cardiff Castle. There are two existing campus buildings: the Raymond Edwards Building, which sits immediately at the rear of the new building, and the Anthony Hopkins Centre, which lies directly to the south of it.
Each of the new performance spaces has been conceived as a separate building so that the mass is broken up and human scale is introduced at a street level. A single floating roof unifies the individual components as a whole, providing a dynamic new frontage for the college.
The double-height foyer will reveal stunning views over Bute Park. The space acts as both the ‘spine’ of the building, linking the two performance spaces, and as its ‘lungs,’ circulating warm and cool air through its natural stack chimney effect.
Sitting snugly amongst the nearby woods, the new concert hall is entirely clad in horizontal timber screen. The cladding wraps itself around the entire concert hall, with a cutback set inside the foyer allowing access.
At the other end of the building, a semi-circular form, clad in near-white Portland stone, accommodates the Richard Burton Theatre. Both the use of Portland stone and vertical fins placed across the facade give nod to the nearby neoclassical buildings.
Finally, the college wanted the new building to be environmentally responsible. RWCMD is set to achieve BREEAM ‘Excellent’ by incorporating various sustainable measures, such as the placement of water-heating solar panels and use of natural ventilation and thermal mass where possible, as well as envisaging the arcade as a giant chimney stack.