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AJ Architecture Awards 2018: Higher Education Project of the Year

The Royal Academy of Music: Theatre and New Recital Hall by Ian Ritchie Architects has been awarded Higher Education Project of the Year at the 2018 AJ Architecture Awards 

This project was praised by the judges as a ‘tour-de-force’, with one saying they ‘couldn’t fault it – it’s a project that revealed more layers the longer you stayed in the spaces.’ Another observed: ‘You sometimes come away from seeing even a good building thinking critically: oh it’s a pity about that detail. Here it was more “oh, it was great how they did that”.’

The project consists of the complete renovation and reconfiguration of the academy’s theatre to enhance it for performances by students studying opera and musical theatre. This has resulted in much improved acoustics and an increase in audience capacity from 200 to 300. Above the theatre, Ian Ritchie Architects has added a new, acoustically isolated recital space for 100 people, which is practically invisible from the street. In addition, the project has seen a thorough rethink and rework of both access and back of house to support these spaces. 

‘It’s an inspired marrying of the old and the new,’ said one judge. ‘The practice has really sweated every inch of space out of an ultra-contained site.’

The new and refurbished performance spaces were praised for being acoustically and materially superb, perfectly attuned to the needs of performers, but tailored to audience experience as well, meaning the academy now offers a ‘great destination for the public’. Said one judge: ‘It made me want to get my flute out again.’

Read a building study of the project here


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  • Hubert Perrodo Building, St Peter’s College by Design Engine Architects
  • Simon Sainsbury Centre, Cambridge Judge Business School by Stanton Williams
  • University of Birmingham Sport & Fitness by Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands 

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