Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, Cardiff

Project: Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, Cardiff

Curtain walling, concealed vents and doors by Kawneer feature on the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama.

Architectural aluminium systems from Kawneer are playing a major role in the new extension to Wales’ national conservatoire.

The manufacturer’s AA®110 curtain walling with 65mm sightlines, concealed vents and series 190 heavy-duty revolving entrance doors were specified by BFLS architects for the £22million project at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama in Cardiff.

These glazing elements, installed by Kawneer-approved specialist sub-contractor AB Glass, have been used particularly on a triple-height entrance foyer which links the new 450-seat Dora Stoutzker concert hall - Wales’ first purpose-built chamber recital hall - with the new 180-seat Richard Burton Theatre under a single sweeping roof.

Considered by many to be the project’s coup de grace, the foyer takes visitors from the bustle of the traffic-filled North Road to the tranquil magnificence of the splendid trees that fill the Grade 1 listed Royal Bute Park. Beyond the Kawneer full-height glazing, a terrace steps down to the water of the dock feeder canal.

The foyer has become one of the most popular civic spaces in Cardiff, a new venue where students, staff and the public meet and eat and talk, with a connecting balcony between theatre and concert hall offering an effective upper circle.

Funded by a Welsh Government grant, loans and £4million in donations, the new extension was designed to be BREEAM Excellent and includes three performance and rehearsal spaces, teaching rooms, studios, library and cafe.

Designed from the outside in, each performance space is conceived as a separate building. The drama building forms a new curved facade of Portland stone while the cedar-clad recital hall sits among the woods adjacent to the existing 1970s pale brick building which had to remain operational throughout the build by main contractor Willmott Dixon.

The existing concrete-framed building only had a 50-seat recital room and 120-seat black-box studio theatre so students had to occupy other buildings in the city, including St David’s Hall, to rehearse and give concerts and performances.

The new extension, on the site of a former car park, transforms the venue from a building with no civic presence to one shortlisted for a World Architecture Festival award at a time when it was the only UK entry to be shortlisted in the Future Projects/Culture category.