Royal College of Music (English)

Haddonstone architectural stonework selected for new £40 million Royal College of Music project

The client

The Royal College of Music (RCM) is one of the world’s great conservatoires.  For over 135 years it has trained gifted musicians from all over the world for international careers as performers, conductors and composers.  Situated in South Kensington, the home of science, arts and inspiration, and directly opposite the Royal Albert Hall, the RCM’s buildings, facilities and location are the envy of the world.

 

The brief

As part of a £40 million philanthropic campaign, More Music: Reimaging The Royal College of Music, the College has ambitious plans to support more students through scholarships and to transform the way students and visitors experience the RCM.  The More Music campaign will create dynamic and inspirational new spaces and facilities at the College’s South Kensington home, while preserving the iconic character of the original redbrick Victorian building, that has been home to the RCM since 1894.

Designed by renowned architect John Simpson, whose other major clients include The Royal Household, Buckingham Palace and the University of Cambridge, the proposed scheme is centred on a new external Quad at ground level, accessed from an enlarged Entrance Hall and a new triple-height foyer, forming the heart of the new master plan.  The project encompasses many new areas including:

  • A new performance hall and studio
  • New visitor facilities and open public spaces including café and Courtyard
  • Additional multipurpose teaching areas
  • Rehearsal and practice rooms
  • A new Royal College of Music Museum.

Haddonstone was approached by construction contractor Cunningham Stone Masonry Ltd to supply the highest-quality bespoke cast stone components for the new Courtyard.  Overlooked by the distinctive original Victorian tower, the main purpose of the Courtyard is to provide a relaxing space for both visitors and students, and to provide a smart outside seating area for the adjacent café.  Sitting directly above a new basement floor performance hall, John Simpson Architects were tasked with carefully ensuring that the acoustics within the performance hall were optimally contained, preventing any transference of noise from above.

The solution

The team at Haddonstone assisted John Simpson Architects during the very early design stages of the new Courtyard space, by reviewing drawings and attending important project meetings. They also created bespoke colour samples to match the original stone seamlessly.

Working closely with specialist stone installers Cunningham Stone Masonry, our team supplied detailed drawing packages and schedules, ensuring a seamless process throughout the duration of the project.  The team were also available throughout the project to provide the client with additional technical and design support, and to guarantee the highest quality outcome for this prestigious project. As with any client project, it was critical that each stone component was produced to the very highest specification and precision.  With our own specialist manufactory in Northamptonshire, we were able to manufacture bespoke architectural cast stone components to the exact shape and size required for the project.  Our highly experienced specialist production team applied meticulous attention to detail throughout the production of each stone component, ensuring each design met both our own, and the United Kingdom Cast Stone Association’s strict levels of technical performance.

A complete collection of bespoke Haddonstone components were manufactured for the Courtyard project.  Each distinctive design working in harmony with the redbrick wall and helping to create a beautifully balanced aesthetic.

courtyard at the royal college of music       

Haddonstone components produced for the project:

  • A bespoke horizontal lower cornice with decorative classical molding to encircle and crown the roofline
  • Various sized keystones to cap the second-floor windows and complete three mock bulls-eye window details on the south side
  • Bespoke window cills and brackets, featuring a triglyph style design to complement the new stone date plaque (not Haddonstone)
  • Band Courses to add structure to the overall design of the Courtyard
  • Bespoke door surrounds incorporating simple vertical, square columns and complementary hood moulds
  • The door heads were specially designed structural units and were manufactured in a single piece
  • A simple string course that stretches around the upper half of the building and is supplemented by a second bespoke string course created with a special bull-nose design, that extends horizontally a few feet above ground level
  • A plinth course that conjoins the lowest part of the redbrick wall with the Courtyard floor
  • Bespoke simple curved benches with bull-nose design that weigh in excess of 600kgs each were positioned along the west wall offering visitors a permanent seating area.

Each component was produced using TecStone wet-cast limestone material.  With a unique surface texture similar to Coade stone, this material was chosen based on its strength performance and because it is virtually indistinguishable from the existing stone used on the façade of the main entrance and throughout the RCM buildings. It also weathers beautifully, therefore ensuring that the Courtyard remains looking beautiful for many years.

No mechanical fixings were used in the construction of any of the components, so each unit was specially designed to be structurally supporting.

Our specialist craftsmen produced each new Courtyard component using a special Coade colour.  This ensured the new cast stone designs matched the existing stone elements and blended seamlessly with the two original redbrick College buildings, originally designed by Arthur Blomfield and Sidney Smith.

In total 57 tonnes of cast stone was produced for this project, with 130 separate stone components successfully installed.

The result

The Courtyard project was completed in January 2020 and the entire More Music building development will be completed by mid-2020.

“We were delighted with the professional, organized service, the delivery of material on program as well as the quality of the stone provided for the Royal College of Music in London.”

Alan Cunningham, Managing Director, Cunningham Stone

 

Listen to our BBC Radio Northampton interview about this project:

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