The Royal College of Music lies on a ‘hidden’ axis that runs through the Albert Memorial, Albert Hall, right through to the Natural History Museum. As a result, the layout of the building is symmetrical with two courtyards east and west of the axis. The westerly courtyard was filled at an earlier date by the Britten Theatre. The east courtyard is the subject of this competition design.
The RCM is a densely organised ant hill of small rooms with little in the way of easy going social spaces. It was a priority in that the east courtyard should be an opportunity for a new social heart to the college. On top of this they required a new performance space and a number of supporting facilities. Amongst these would be the relocation of the Museum of Historic Instruments. It becomes a challenge for the project to relate the main entrance hall in a fluent and sympathetic way to the new social area.
The proposal shows an interpretation of the main social space as a curved timber lined enclosure that makes reference to the curved surfaces of musical instruments such as are found in lutes and theorboes. The space is intended to be available for informal performances as well as acting as a general meeting place. The wider plan is organised to reflect circulation patterns within the College. The east/west axis links the new spaces, the main entrance and the Britten Theatre. The north/south axis relates existing parts of the building back to main entrance, new performance space, etc.