previous stateThe London Royal Academy of Music, located next to Regent's Park in a turn-of-the-century building, saw how, owing to the gradual growth of the school, the spaces originally envisaged for its development were becoming insufficient. Facing on to the monumental complex of York Gate which, opening from the Marylebone Church, acted both to monumentalise and highlight this access to the city park, the Conservatory of Music block already formed part, by 1793, of the great scheme of the architect John Nash for the development of London's Regent’s Park area and Regent Street.
Over time, despite the eminently public nature of this block of facilities and the centrality of its location, the Conservatory and the York Gate complex had become excessively hermetic for pedestrians and neither were there adequate service spaces nor a great number of facilities for the many users.
aim of the interventionIn 1997, the Royal Academy of Music acquired the adjoining York Gate building and the interstitial space between the two buildings hitherto occupied by parking spaces and a heterogeneous set of small auxiliary buildings that served as annexes to the main buildings. This purchase opened up the possibility, not just of converting the block into a coherent set of buildings that fulfilled their public and cultural functions, but also of improving access and the permeability of the complex as a whole, creating a new urban itinerary between the two buildings while opening up the long patio space of the block, which had formerly been inaccessible.
descriptionThe project meant redefining the programmatic-functional nature of the conservatory spaces that were to be developed in the two buildings being renovated, and creating a new facility, the Academy's concert hall that would be semi-submerged in the patio of the block with its surrounds articulating the new accessibility of the complex. The Conservatory’s new concert hall, open to everyone, is conceived as an independent space even while, since it is linked to both buildings, it offers external visibility of other specific activities of the school, thereby illustrating the change towards an improved opening up of the Conservatory and the block as a whole to its users and the public in general.
The intervention in the outside spaces goes from removing the old fences that only permitted an exclusively perimetric circulation around the block, demolishing a number of parasitic annexes randomly attached to the main buildings in the patio, and constructing the new concert hall and the zinc roof in the form of a barrel vault opening out on to the surface of the small, newly-freed longitudinal patio.
assessmentMaking urban routes accessible and user-friendly by removing physical barriers is essential for the health of any public space. And opening up and improving the external spaces of public facilities is almost an obligation. If buildings for cultural or educational purposes, or with an eminently public function, are not concerned about access and their exterior spaces, thereby highlighting their inherent nature as buildings in the service of the community and the city, it would be difficult to win regard for and responsibility in general for urban public spaces. This small project reveals how minor changes, sometimes in keeping with operations as simple as questioning the presence of a fence or wall in a particular place, can very often be truly substantial when it comes to the physical, perceptive and symbolic qualities of a specific urban context.
Mònica Oliveres i Guixer, architect