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The sound of success

UB editor Rebecca Paddick visits Birmingham City University's latest new-build, the £57m Conservatoire

Posted by Julian Owen | October 30, 2017 | Facilities

Boasting five new public performance spaces, including a 500-seat concert hall, a 150-seat recital room and a 100-seat organ studio, BCU’s new, £57m Birmingham Conservatoire is the perfect fusion of traditional and contemporary.

Out on its own

The Conservatoire’s new state-of-the-art home is the first purpose-built music college to be constructed in the UK since 1987 and the only one in the country which has been specifically designed to cater for the demands of the digital age.

Featuring 9,000 sq m of purpose-designed teaching, rehearsal and state-of-the-art performance space, the new building includes The Lab, a cutting-edge, completely flexible black-box studio, and the first permanent jazz space in any UK conservatoire – the 80-seat Eastside Jazz Club.

The building was designed to pay care and attention to musicians as entrepreneurs, and prepare students for the opportunities and challenges presented by the future of their profession. 

Designed by Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios and constructed by Galliford Try using 400,000 bricks, the new Conservatoire is located alongside Millennium Point, adjacent to Jennens Road in the Eastside region of Birmingham. 

Overcoming challenges

“The engineering side was a big challenge but brilliantly resolved,” said Professor Lamberto Coccioli, Head of Music Technology at Birmingham Conservatoire.

“And, of course, the acoustics were another big challenge. The problem with a conservatoire is that there are hundreds of people in the same place all making noise at the same time, and they can’t hear each other. Every single room has been looked at differently.”

Prof. Coccioli oversaw the 104-week project from inception to completion, and explained that from the very start to opening day, students have been at the heart of this project. 

“We wanted students to define themselves by their own instrumental department, and have their own identity, so we put the students together who we knew would collaborative together. On the 4th floor, we have jazz, music technology and composition together because all three departments are about creating things instead of playing things in front other people. 

“The idea of having them all together on the same floor would ensure creative collisions. Likewise, having wood, strings and orchestral departments together will invite collaboration, which is fundamental for music making.”

The Conservatoire includes:

 - Birmingham’s only dedicated jazz club

 - An outstanding 500-seat concert hall

 - Intimate 150-seat recital hall

 - 100 practice and rehearsal rooms

 - Organ studio

 - Complete AV digital interconnection

 - Seven industry-standard recording studios

 - A technical infrastructure unrivalled in the UK

Julian Lloyd Webber

Royal approval

The performing arts institution has also recently been granted a Royal title by Her Majesty The Queen. Now part of its parent institution’s City Centre Campus, the music and drama academy will be renamed the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, joining a select list of performing arts institutions bearing the Royal imprimatur.

Principal of the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, internationally renowned cellist and conductor Professor Julian Lloyd Webber, said: “With our new name and suitably magnificent new home we intend to set the global benchmark for music and drama education and performance.

“This is a hugely significant moment for music and drama education in the UK. The Royal title bears testimony to the value the Conservatoire rightly places on the importance of the performing arts in all our lives.” 

The music and drama academy now sits just metres away from Birmingham City University’s wealth of media and recording facilities, including four TV studios and Europe’s largest static green screen. 

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