Milton Court is a new venue for the Guildhall School of Music & Drama in London, providing state-of-the-art training and concert facilities to almost 900 students. This will allow the school to increase its programme in terms of variety, scope and volume, whilst continuing to attract the most highly regarded teachers and best students internationally. The venue won the 2015 USITT’s Architecture Merit Award.
The venue is comprised of a 608 seat concert hall plus two theatres (with 223 seats and a studio), three rehearsal rooms, TV studio suite, departments for costume, wigs and make-up, office space, tutorial rooms and public foyers.
Arup was appointed to provide acoustic consultancy services to ensure the highest-quality sound in all performance and studying spaces. We worked closely with RHWL Arts Team during the design and held rigorous acoustics trials to test the acoustics in Milton Court’s concert hall, theatres and rehearsal rooms.
The concert hall has a variable acoustic system and automated stage extension systems to allow for the swift change from school rehearsal to public performance use. The acoustics can be adjusted to make the room suitable for orchestral use, and for amplified and speech related activities.
With a major series of concerts programmed by The Barbican Centre and featuring resident orchestras – The Academy of Ancient Music and The Britten Sinfonia – the concert hall is already proving an important commercial venue for classical music in London.
The concert hall at Milton Court provides beautiful acoustics for performers and audience alike. It represents a rare opportunity in London to realise an ideal blend of ample volume and rigorous form, resulting in both clarity and fullness. Its upper volume provides a natural reverberance which allows musical phrases to connect to each other, while its narrow footprint reinforces the sound path from performer to audience.
Wall surfaces are carefully articulated and have been laboratory tested to ensure they respond ideally, each vibrating subtly in response to the music and providing even, dispersed reflections. The architectural ordering of the surfaces ensures that the audience receives a smooth sequence of acoustic reflections, resulting in a warm, blended sound.
The hall is highly flexible in platform configuration and acoustic response, to allow for the broadest range of repertoire. The platform comprises a series of lifts so that its size and tiers can be optimised to suit the programme, from solo recital to symphonic repertoire. The reverberance of the hall is also widely adjustable through the use of a series of automated drop-down wall banners, so that the response can be fine-tuned to the demands of the programme.
To ensure immunity from disturbance, the hall has been constructed as a fully isolated ‘box-in-box’ masonry construction, supported only by a series of natural rubber isolation bearings. Structurally it is completely independent of the building within which it sits. The ventilation system slowly trickles fresh air in through openings within the seats, to ensure the most delicate pianissimos are heard against a silent background.
The theatre has been designed to provide an intimate acoustic for theatrical performance, providing articulated reflections for both performers and audience alike. A mixture of dense and lightweight materials has been used to provide a balanced acoustic. Moveable acoustic drapes allow the reverberance to be adjusted according to the demands of a diverse dramatic and musical repertoire, such as an amplified west-end musical show or chamber opera.