Musical dome to complete Birmingham's redbrick vision

The University of Birmingham's plan to reinstate the missing dome of it's original range of buildings in a £16 million music department has been approved by city councillors; Birmingham University launches £16m music project.

The new centre which will open in 2012 has been designed by Birmingham based Glenn Howells Architects and will reinstate one of the missing dome from the university's original plans. The original design saw seven domed pavilions enclosing Chancellor's Court. A shortage of funds prevented the original design from being completed but the £16 million music centre will fill the missing gap, Dome to complete Redbrick heart.

“It has taken two and a half years of hard work,” Glenn Howells said. “We’ve been aggressively modest in our approach, because we didn’t want someone to come along in 200-300 years and criticise what we’ve done.

“We are using a matching brick because they are no longer quarrying the original one. The building has to comply with modern standards, incorporating double-glazed, high-performance windows. It’s a building that, as you get close to it, will reveal itself as a 21st-century building in quite a subtle way.”

One difference which has had to be incorporated is that the new pavilion needs to provide an entrance, whereas its existing counterparts only have windows. The whole complex is linked by a curving internal corridor. Mr Howells said. “It’s as though somebody has left work on the project in anticipation of someone else picking up the pen 100 years later.”

The new building will have a pavilion entrance with foyer connecting it to the 450 seat concert hall and other facilities including teaching facilities and studios for early music and electro-acoustic music. The auditorium has been designed by acoustician Nick Edwards, who worked on Symphony Hall and the new Royal Shakespeare Theatre.

The new concert hall will fill a gap in the city between the 600-seat Adrian Boult Hall and the CBSO Centre, which is about half that size. Fully retractable seating will make it possible for a symphony orchestra and choir to rehearse.

Professor David Eastwood, the university’s vice-chancellor, said: “The new building which will finally complete the original architectural vision of the university, will provide our outstanding music department with a much-needed permanent home that befits its international standing.”

The scheme has been welcomed by Sir Simon Rattle, principal conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra and former music director of the CBSO, who said: “I’m excited by the plans for the University of Birmingham’s new music building, both as a centre of excellence which will attract and nurture talented musicians, but also as a venue which opens university music-making to the wider local and regional community.”

The new centre will provide a fitting home to Birmingham's Music Department which was ranked joint second out of all the country's 53 Music departments in the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise.


Anonymous said…
As a nod to the Midlands and possibly Britain's finest composer could the new auditorium be named after the University's first Professor of Music: Sir Edward Elgar?

Plus to celebrate the new building could Andris Nelsons and the CBSO be invited to perform a major retrospective of Elgar's works, possibly as part of Birmingham's hopefully successful bid to become Britain's first 'City of Culture'?

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