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Milton Court, Guildhall School of Music & Drama

Project Title: Milton Court, Guildhall School of Music and Drama, City of London

Client: Heron International

Architect: RHWL Architects

Structural Engineer: WSP Cantor Seinuk

Main contractor: Sir Robert McAlpine

Joinery company: Lindner Interiors

Wood supplier: Mundy Veneers

Project Description:

Milton Court is an £89 million redevelopment of the Milton Court site that comprises a 608-seat concert hall, 223-seat theatre, studio theatre, three major rehearsal rooms and TV studio suite.

Wood plays an integral role in the design and each species was chosen for its duality and functionality, not only does it add to the aesthetics of the project but it also has a positive impact on the overall audience experience.

RHWL Arts Team was inspired by Barbara Hepworth’s 1943 Oval Sculpture of timber exterior and a pure white, carved out interior. The team reversed this idea to create a white exterior which, when peeled away, exposes the warmth and aesthetics of timber interiors. Sapele, smoked Oak and stained Birch ply in muted colours were chosen for their high quality, durable features.

The design of the Concert Hall includes specialised wall and ceiling panels of crown cut and book matched Sapele, taking in to account both the acoustic and aesthetic qualities of the wood. Sapele, often used in instrument making, was chosen for its detailing, depth of colour and lustre. Horizontal crown cut panels feature along the tier fronts of the hall along with vertically installed panels around the orchestra and side walls. The contrast in the exposed graining creates a visually striking effect and adds a depth of colour.

Wood also features on the rear wall providing additional sound diffusion. RHWL used Sapele to design a space that immerses visitors and which includes visual coherence, clarity and enhances the music through its acoustic capabilities.

Public staircase:

The staircase is a main feature of the building and connects the basement level through to the fourth floor. It includes crown cut solid hard wood Sapele, which has been laid vertically and jointed to appear, throughout the floors, as a single stream of seamless, unbroken timber. Quarter cut veneered Sapele board wall linings create a subtle contrast between the two cuts of timer grain and visually separate the main elements of the staircase.

Foyer box office

Quarter cut, slip matched sequential Sapele veneer board was chosen for its rich colourings and detailed grain. The use of Sapele, for the box office, creates a striking contrast between the white walls of the foyer and provides a focal point for visitors. The technique of the wood cutting exposes the detailed, horizontal stripes in the grain, showing the layers of time and creating a sand or strata effect. The slip matched sequential form creates a seamlessly striped effect along the 7.5m long box office desk.

Studio Theatre:

The studio theatre provides flexible performance space and has been designed to have its own unique character. European Birch ply wood stained in rich aubergine creates a chequered style arrangement on the walls. The muted colours of the birch around the perimeter of the space gives a functional environment for rehearsal and teaching by day, under performance conditions the design blurs the perception of depth and spatial boundaries, helping the form of the room disappear and attention to be focused on the performance.

Drama Theatre:

The 223-seat proscenium arch, multi-level theatre, features European Smoked Oak. Crown cut solid and veneer boards have been used both vertically and horizontally to subtly accentuate the proportions and geometry of the space. Crown cut veneer panels feature horizontally on the double curved tier fronts while vertical panels feature on the stalls and box ends, the grain contrasts and helps express the horseshoe design of the theatre.