Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama


Client: Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama

Location: Cardiff, Wales

Status: Completed 2012

Area: 4,400 sqm

Cost: £22.5m

Interior: FLINT

Structural & Service Engineer: Mott MacDonald

Acoustic Engineer: Arup Acoustics

Lighting Consultant: Equation Lighting

Theatre Consultant: Theatre Projects Consultancy

Landscape Architect: LDA

BREEAM Rating: Excellent

Awards Won:

Civic Trust Award; RIBA Award; RIBA Welsh Award; RIBA Welsh Award; RIBA Client of the Year Award; The Chicago Athenaeum/Europe Architecture Award; Welsh Design Award; Association of Interior Specialists: Ceiling Gold Medal, Acoustic Wall Panels Silver Medal; RICS Wales Award Commercial Category; ICE Services Award

Awards Shortlisted:

Building of the Year, Building Magazine Awards; Building of the Year, Structural Steel Awards; Building of the Year, Wood Awards; BCI Awards Building Project of the Year (£3m to £50m); BCI Awards Sustainability Award; BCI Awards Prime Minister’s Better Public Building; World Architecture Festival Cultural Building; World Archtiecture Festival Future Project, World Architecture News Cultural Building; World Architecture News Sustainable Building of the Year; Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors Cultural Building of the Year; CIBSE Major Project Award; Eistteddfordd

The Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama is Wales’ national music and drama conservatoire. Wrapping an existing building with a striking new façade, the college has been transformed and modernized. Won in international competition in 2007, the project has created an acoustically excellent 450 seat chamber concert hall, a 160 seat courtyard theatre, along with studio, teaching, rehearsal and foyer spaces.

Our approach was two-fold; to design the internal performance spaces from the ‘inside out’, looking at their acoustic and theatrical functionality as major drivers; whilst in parallel designing from the ‘outside in’, thinking about the civic presence of the building in its urban context. The new buildings are situated inside the Grade I listed Bute Park, where they directly face Cathays Park, the civic centre of Cardiff which consists of a number of important listed buildings.

The design focuses on the core needs of the school community, namely an acoustically impressive sequence of performance and learning spaces, encouraging and motivating the buildings’ occupants. The client was very specific from the outset that the new buildings would act as a catalyst for positive cultural change and easier department cross-fertilization.

Although the building appears to be a single structure, it is in fact three separate new buildings and a renovated existing structure. The final scheme ties the individual components of the building under a single roof, creating a unified facade, yet exposing the differing functions within. The drama building forms a new façade to the street, and the recital hall, clad with a timber screen consisting of lightly-coloured cedar wood slats, sits amongst the woods adjacent to the existing building. Interior finishes of stone and timber create warm and tactile spaces for users.

A treble-height arcade forms a spine between the new and old accommodation, linking the constituent elements whilst functioning as exhibition space for the Design & Costume Department. The space also acts as the ‘lungs’ for the scheme, as its natural stack effect ventilates the public spaces.

The project was funded by the Welsh Assembly and designed to be BREEAM ‘excellent’.