Pitch perfect - The Royal Birmingham Conservatoire

Mark Brain
I love projects that are out of the ordinary and I’m both proud and privileged to have helped create something as extraordinary as Royal Birmingham Conservatoire.

This is no average teaching building—it’s a complex, three-dimensional jigsaw of spaces, blending higher education teaching and performance space into one. It’s been an exciting project and truly one of the highlights of my career.

Royal Birmingham Conservatoire was technically challenging and had to be constructed within a tight budget. It was a tough job for the team, to balance aspirations, the building’s performance and its affordability, against a backdrop of peak supply chain demand in the city centre.

The impending demolition of the existing building in the city core was a significant challenge for the team, as was the need for a fully operational conservatoire for 2018. No new conservatoires had been built in the digital age and this project therefore had no directly comparable precedents, for technical specification, for combined usage, or for cost benchmarking. It would take significantly longer to build than a typical teaching facility of its size, and was to be located on a relatively small plot in the Curzon regeneration area.

Selecting suppliers based solely on price would have been disastrous—this project demanded a fresh approach. An innovative procurement strategy laid the foundations for success. This meant extensive engagement with the prospective supply chain, carefully pre-selecting two teams with a proven track record, and then focusing on value for money.

The performance of the venue was an absolute priority, so we carefully scrutinised each cost opportunity to ensure no adverse impact on audience and performer experience. The team worked exceptionally hard to deliver lower cost, high-quality, future-proof design solutions without compromising the integrity of the project.

The resulting building is architecturally stunning and acoustically magnificent. Teamwork, innovation and hard work have produced world-class facilities for current and future generations of musicians: a superb 500-seat concert hall, 146-seat recital hall, 100-seat organ studio and 80-seat jazz club, alongside 70 practice rooms accommodating up to 650 students. 

Our programme benefits thousands of young people from diverse communities across England. Our new home will become the central hub of all of these crucial activities.

Julian Lloyd Webber, Principal, Royal Birmingham Conservatoire

Doors opened to students and to the public in September 2017, when the Conservatoire gained its royal name, joining a select list of performing arts institutions bearing the royal imprimatur. The bestowment followed Prince Edward becoming the first royal patron in March 2016.

Further accolades came in May 2018 at the RICS West Midlands Awards, where the Conservatoire won Project of the Year as well as the Design through Innovation award. Project of the Year award is presented to the scheme which demonstrates overall outstanding best practice and an exemplary commitment to adding value to its local area.

The £57m Conservatoire cements the 20-year relationship between Birmingham City University (BCU) and Faithful+Gould. BCU has invested £260m in its facilities over the last 10 years and we’ve been at the heart of those projects, providing a suite of technical services for the majority of its capital investment.

This project is just part of Faithful+Gould’s wider contribution to the regeneration of Birmingham’s city centre. Our team continues to work on some great city centre projects, including the Paradise redevelopment which was able to move forward after the Conservatoire's relocation.

Our fantastic new facility will ensure we can equip future performers with the skills they need to meet the demands of today’s fast-paced creative economy.

Professor Philip Plowden, Vice Chancellor, Birmingham City University

I’m immensely proud of what the team has achieved here in Birmingham. After many months of hard work, it was incredible to observe the concert hall during construction, looking down from the gantries in awe of the hall’s sheer scale, watching it take shape. Impressive is an understatement. I attended the Opening Festival event on May 4th, when Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf was performed by Royal Birmingham Conservatoire Pops Orchestra and narrated by BCU Chancellor Sir Lenny Henry. I couldn’t wait to take my seat—and the performance was amazing!

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