“Ian Ritchie Architects’ award-winning, ingenious design for the Royal Academy of Music in a particularly challenging historic London location is defined by its roofline of Nordic Blue copper, a material that the architects have been exploring for over a decade.”
Hidden behind the façade of the Royal Academy of Music’s Edwardian premises, surrounded by other protected historic buildings and located within the Regent’s Park conservation area, two distinct, outstanding performance spaces have been created. Despite the complexities of the constrained site into which the myriad of functions of a modern opera and musical theatre were to be introduced, the copper-clad project’s design was unanimously granted permission at the first submission, fully supported by the local authority, as well as historic building protection organisations.

Photo: Adam Scott

A view of the side of the roof of Royal Academy of Music located in London, UK. The center side of the roof is clad in Nordic Blue Copper made by Aurubis. The end of the roof is a glass panel that connects to the nearby building. Support wires connect to the glass panel. The picture shows an evening sky in London. Nearby buildings have light coming from the windows.

Photo: Adam Scott

The interior of Royal Academy of Music located in London, UK. The room is a recital hall. The room has a black grand piano and a hundred red chairs facing the piano. The walls of the room are light brown coloured and have horizontal accents. The roof cascades upwards and has a spherical window at the top. The roof is made form Nordic Blue Copper by Aurubis.

Photo: Adam Scott

A model from the architect of the Royal Academy of Music located in London, Uk.The view is from the top high above the academy. The building is coloured in blue and the surrounding areas are coloured white showcasing the Nordic Blue Copper made by Aurubis.

Illustration: Ian Ritchie Architects

A black-and-white illustration of the side view of Royal Academy of Music located in London, UK. The drawing depicts a view from the side of the academy. The drawing contains people and activity inside the building. The drawing shows the building as multi-tiered. Building is made by Nordic Copper and Aurubis.

Illustration: Ian Ritchie Architects

Nordic Blue Living surfaces

Seamlessly integrated within the historic site, the project is expressed by facades and roofs clad in Nordic Blue Living 1 pre-patinated copper from Aurubis. Nordic Blue is a factory-applied patina developed with properties and colours based on the same brochantite mineralogy found in natural patinas all over the world. In marine climates, the natural copper patina contains some copper chloride giving it a blue-green colour, emulated with Nordic Blue. As well as the solid patina colours, other intensities of patina flecks revealing some of the dark oxidised background material create ‘Living’ surfaces.

Ian Ritchie said:

‘I grew up in Brighton and have always been fond of the copper roofs there, naturally patinated a turquoise blue by the sea air. Our interest in Nordic Blue copper goes back to 2004 and instigated research and development carried out by its manufacturers for a previous project. For the Royal Academy of Music project, Nordic Blue Living 1 provides just the right hue which will continue to develop naturally over time’.

Extensive additional facilities

Designed for both opera and musical theatre productions, The Susie Sainsbury Theatre sits at the heart of the Academy. Within the old concrete walls, the Theatre incorporates 40% more seating than previously through the addition of a balcony, as well as a larger orchestra pit, a stage wing and a fly tower. Above the Theatre, and acoustically isolated from all other buildings, the new 100-seat Recital Hall provides a further 230m2 of space.

Creating a visual and physical link between the old and new buildings is the Recital Hall’s new glazed lobby, which is primarily accessed from the main stairway and also by a glazed lift. The new light wells reveal the previously concealed, protected rear façade, in which bricked-up windows have been reopened. Both of these beautifully finished, acoustically diverse spaces can be accessed independently and complete a suite of facilities for the Academy’s ambitious student body and world-class teaching staff and for public performances.

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