Royal Northern College of Music

A phased estates strategy to create high-quality study and performance spaces.

Royal Northern College of Music
Completed 2007
Exterior image of a contemporary conservatoire at night.

The Royal Northern College of Music is a leading international conservatoire, music college and performance venue located in the heart of Manchester.

Buttress was appointed to deliver a number of phases of work for the college, underpinned by a strategy to increase capacity and improve the performance of existing buildings, adding to its offering with high-quality modern facilities.

Exterior image of a conservatoire.

Refurbishment and adaptation

Our first project looked at the original building, primarily used for teaching, practice and music rehearsal space for individuals through to orchestras. Our involvement saw the creation of 25 bespoke practice rooms – including a replica orchestral stage and smaller individual studios – forming the core of the project.

Constructed using the same principles as recording studios, these rooms are highly insulated steel boxes which float independently from any connecting structures to reduce sound transmission. A new library and archival storage space were also created to complement the teaching accommodation.

Image of an entrance space and box office area.

The new accommodation is accessed through a triple-height entrance pavilion that links the new wing to the main building with a 15m glazed bridge on the second floor and level access on the ground floor. This glazed link provides a central entrance, reception and circulation hub for the college and also functions as a congregation and exhibition space during festivals and open days.

The box office was also relocated into the new entrance space as a more legible entry point for public audiences.

Image of a refurbished restaurant and bar area.
Image of a refurbished restaurant and bar area.
Close-up image of lighting.

Concorde Bar

Our second project for the Royal Northern College of Music saw the extension and refurbishment of the restaurant and bar facilities for students and concert-goers, as well as the creation of new teaching and conference facilities.

Public areas of the 1971 brutalist building were transformed into contemporary light-filled, warm and expressive spaces. Free-floating curved elements, lit from behind, define the spaces and express the new accommodation as layers inserted into the double-height space.

Exterior image of a modern conservatoire at night.
Image of a music rehearsal room. A person can be seen playing an instrument through the window.

Oxford Road Wing

Our latest project with the college is the new Oxford Road Wing, a significant extension that fronts one of Manchester's main arterial routes and fulfils a number of roles for the college.

The new building includes various rehearsal studios including two double-height orchestral rehearsal spaces, 17 practice rooms accommodating groups of up to four students, and a number of general teaching rooms. The building also houses the senior management administration suite, as well as the headquarters for the Manchester Camerata Chamber Orchestra.

Image of an orchestra rehearsal.
Image of a large orchestral rehearsal space with a piano.

The studios are fitted with acoustically diffusing ceilings and walls, providing both high levels of sound insulation and areas of fixed acoustic absorption, as well as motorised sound absorption that allows reverberation to be controlled.

Where the wing faces Oxford Road, an acoustic buffer zone has been created. Designed with a glazed double layer, the new wing offers a glimpse into the rehearsal rooms within, allowing the college to increase the visibility of its activities as a leading international conservatoire and successful arts centre.

Street-level view of a modern conservatoire. A person can be seen playing an instrument through the window.
Street-level view of a modern conservatoire. A person can be seen playing an instrument through the window.

Image credits

© Daniel Hopkinson

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