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The Royal Academy of Music’s Theatre and new Recital Hall

Harmony and Technology

Ian Ritchie Architects

The Royal Academy of Music’s Theatre and new Recital Hall
By Luca Maria Francesco Fabris -

Finding space and making good use of it. This seems an excellent way of describing the architecture of Ian Ritchie, author of a long list of award-winning projects and recipient last October of an Honorary Degree by the Milan Polytechnic. His is a remarkable ability to harness (and master) technology, turning it into the perfect companion of structures that blend the modern and the innovative, creating environments that could almost be described as domestic - in the sense that they exude a sense of security and normality - of being the only self-evident solution. Which, of course, they are not.

The Inverted Pyramid designed with Pei for the Paris Louvre (1993) and the Museo Reina Sofia in Madrid (with Onzono and Castro) are two examples of powerful architectures where the unmistakably new sits assertively alongside the ancient. The result is a unique plastic whole that blends an historic building with an unapologetic expression of contemporary technology. Both are brilliant solutions acclaimed by public and critics alike, a concurrence that only happens with peerless achievements.

Ian Ritchie’s latest miracle is enclosed in London’s ancient Royal Academy of Music. Completed last year after six years of tireless work, the project injects new vitality into the UK’s oldest conservatoire. The historic building containing the Academy lies along the very central Marylebone Road. Although a rectangular block, it is in fact a disorderly jumble, the result of many alterations and layered additions made down the years. Ritchie’s firm was commissioned to completely revamp the theater and improve the internal connections within the whole conservatoire. The allocated space was that left after demolishing the 1970s auditorium occupying the inner court formed by the historic buildings. Ritchie immediately saw this new space as the pulsating heart of the whole complex around which the activities of the conservatoire would revolve. Not...

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