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Royal Academy of Music by Ian Ritchie Architects

The Royal Academy of Music has unveiled its new and transformed spaces – The Susie Sainsbury Theatre, The Angela Burgess Recital Hall, five new percussion studios, jazz room and audiovisual control room, and 14 refurbished practice and dressing rooms.

Hidden behind the listed façade of the Royal Academy of Music’s Edwardian premises, surrounded by Grade I and Grade II listed buildings and located within the Regent’s Park conservation area, two distinct, outstanding performance spaces have been designed by Ian Ritchie Architects and seamlessly integrated within the historic site.

Designed for both opera and musical theatre productions, The Susie Sainsbury Theatre sits at the heart of the Academy. Inspired by the curved shapes of string instruments, the 309-seat American cherry-lined Theatre has been acoustically refined to deliver excellent sound qualities.

‘The spaces are stunningly beautiful, acoustically brilliant and inspiring. They will raise the bar and challenge the students and staff in every possible form of music to reach higher and search further.’

Jonathan Freeman-Attwood, Principal, Royal Academy of Music

The acoustic requirements for the Theatre were quite different from those of the Recital Hall. Designed predominantly for opera and musical theatre, the aim for the Theatre was to provide an intimate and responsive acoustic for the Academy’s musicians which would also work well for all the many other different performance types the Theatre may host. This approach meant that the architects were able to avoid the need for any variable acoustic devices which would have to be set up at the correct angle and position to finely tune the space for each performance type.

American cherry is vastly underused, yet is one of the fastest growing hardwoods in the U.S. Growing at a rate of at a rate of 404 million m3, American cherry totals 30% of U.S. growing stock. The net volume of the species (after harvest) is increasing by 7.4 million m3 each year. Timber is the perfect material for use in concert halls and auditoriums because of its extraordinary acoustic properties. American cherry lends itself particularly well as it is easy to manipulate, tough, pliable and brings a beautiful natural warmth to the interior.  

The lighting deconstructs the traditional chandelier into an exploding theatre-wide galaxy of light through 600 fibre-optic crystals. Within the old concrete walls, the Theatre incorporates 40% more seating than previously through the addition of a balcony, as well as a larger orchestra pit, a stage wing and a fly tower. All seats have unimpeded views of the stage, while the larger orchestra pit allows for an expanded repertoire choice, from early to modern opera and musical theatre.

ajohns [at] ianritchiearchitects.co.uk (Request project imagery )mail [at] ianritchiearchitects.co.uk (subject: Project%20imagery%20request) (>)
Species: American cherry 
Location: London
Architect: Ian Ritchie Architects Ltd
Client/Owner: Royal Academy of Music
Structural Engineer: WSP
Main Contractor: Geoffrey Osborne Ltd
Joinery: James Johnson & Co. Ltd
Specialist Theatre Electrics & Lighting: Push The Button
Acoustic Engineer: Arup
Wood Supplier: Hardwood Sales, Brooks Bros, Lathams