Roger Stephenson Architects has completed a radical £36 million overhaul and extension of Chetham’s School of Music Campus (Manchester, UK). The school is attended by over 250 students between
the ages of 8-18 years old . Chetham’s is the largest specialist Music School in the UK and the only Music School based in the North of England. The school is housed in buildings that are nearly 600 years old and
Roger Stephenson Architects has created a contemporary, new sevenstorey building for the music and academic teaching facilities, providing a state-of-the-art learning environment for its students. The new building comprises a 350 seat Concert Hall, a 100 seat Recital Hall, a full academic school and over a hundred music teaching and practice spaces. They have also re-established the adjoining library’s local prominence in terms of its 15th Century British architecture and public accessibility. As well as building a new structure, Roger Stephenson Architects has also removed superfluous existing outer buildings allowing the medieval buildings, which date back to 1421, to become more visible. Roger Stephenson Architects’ building, unique in its shape, responds positively and sensitive to the context. The music establishment possesses several unique characteristics; not only is it partly formed of a medieval fortified manor house set upon a rocky outcrop, it is also considered as an essential hub in Manchester and the wider British music scene. This project is not just about a new school and an old library but about saving a unique and world-class
education institution, producing an outstanding building for the nation. In terms of character and materials used, Roger Stephenson Architects utilised a palette of solid materials creating a carved, highly sculpted
structure. 500,000 handmade buff-coloured bricks were made to compliment the surrounding Victorian buildings and complement the red sandstone medieval administrative building and library. The new school is divided vertically and horizontally. The performance related spaces are located in the base. The entrance and foyer spaces are located in a glazed strip along Hunts Bank and the music school itself is contained above ground. These are also punctuated by windows that emphasise the acoustic treatment required for these specialist spaces.
The School’s activities are also expressed in sculptural form on the façade. The building shape references musical instruments and the musical language. The fenestration on the main and side entrance elevations refer to the stave of a music score. The curved corners reflect the fluid nature of the site, with culverted rivers flowing beneath it and vehicles circulating the island site. Internally, a 15th Century building cloister provides a reference for the form of the new school. The building encloses an airy atrium; a monasticquality of space providing a secure internal space for use by both pupils during school time and public as a Foyer during performances. Chetham’s roots have been cemented for centuries in its historical buildings. Via the creation of new and the reintroduction of the historic, Roger Stephenson Architects’ design has secured the school’s impending history for further centuries to come.
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