Aberdeen Music Hall
Aberdeen Music Hall has been at the centre of cultural life in the north-east of Scotland since the 1850s. Thirty years on from a major refurbishment, the celebrated concert hall was in need of repair and a new vision to position it to serve the public for decades to come.
The venue fell far-short of current expectations of access and inclusion, whist its layout and facilities constrained Aberdeen Performing Arts desire to expand delivery of music education and performance and its tired dated image risked alienating a new generation of audience members needed to secure its future.
BDP’s interdisciplinary design team responded to APA’s brief by delivering their desire to preserve the heritage of the Category A-listed Music Hall whilst creating a fresh new identity for the historic venue, making it inviting and relevant to contemporary audiences.
New basement areas were excavated under the listed building to provide lift and stair access, and removal of the concert hall floor allowed a basement store to be opened-up and enlarged to relocate toilets that had been introduced in a prime location on the ground floor in the 1980s.
Occupying the ground floor space recovered by displacement of the toilets, a contemporary café bar is flooded with daylight through windows that had been boarded-over, and relocation of the bar has allowed a magnificent neo-classical room to become the Big Sky Studio for more intimate performances such as readings and chamber music recitals.
For the first time in the building’s history, all visitors have barrier-free access through the front door by means of a new granite ramp let-into the podium of the portico. Once inside, an invisible lift emerges from the marble stairs, and two new passenger lifts provide access to all floors including a Creative Learning Space that has been created by combining back-of-house offices on the first floor to provide APA with a dedicated space for music education.
At the main entrance, full-height frameless glass door assemblies frame a large video wall designed to entice passers-by to cross the threshold, whether it be to engage with its artistic and entertainment events, educational programme, or just to enjoy the new café bar.
In addition to extensive repair and conservation of the Category A-listed fabric, redevelopment of the Music Hall delivers major an upgrade of the concert hall auditorium to provide adjusted sightlines, new concert seating, platform enlargement, a stage lift and new hardwood flooring.
Overbearing and dated interior decoration has been replaced with a sympathetic, timeless colour scheme to compliment the elegant neo-classical detailing of the listed interiors that have been enhanced by installation of BDP’s architectural lighting design in all public areas.
The opening concert was performed by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra with conductor Alpesh Chauhan and pianist Freddy Kempf on 15 December 2018: “… they’ve done an amazing job on it, because it looks fantastic and it does sound fantastic. So I
think that to have both those things, that’s the jackpot for any renovation.”