Creating a world class concert hall for the people of Bristol and the south west.
Back in 1996, the City Council recognised that Bristol needed a new home for music – a real cultural destination for local people to call their own. Despite having fallen into decline, the Grade II Concert Hall was identified as an opportunity to create just that; with restoration also meaning that one of the city’s finest Victorian buildings would be saved.
However, the scheme had to be much more than a concert hall. It needed to become a resource for the people of Bristol, with spaces for formal and informal performances, education and socialising. The original foyer was small by modern standards and wasn’t very welcoming – this needed to be rectified to create a place that people could comfortably congregate before, during and after shows, and be a destination in its own right.
Throughout, our vision has been to create somewhere that everyone will want to visit – a place where they can come to engage with music of all genres.
A visionary plan was set out to transform the hall in phases whilst maintaining business as usual, and we worked firstly with the Council and latterly Bristol Music Trust. Together, Councillor Simon Cook, Chief Executive Louise Mitchell and Trustee Henry Kenyon have been pivotal in making this new vision for Concert Hall a reality: securing funding and community support throughout the process.
We devised a phased programme for works: phase one completed in 2009 and the design for phase two is currently underway.
The first phase involved demolishing part of the site to deliver a new foyer building, with all of the modern facilities necessary for an audience of 2,500 people. This bold new addition features a sweeping façade with striking cladding, its distinctive copper-alloy and cherry-wood curves reminiscent of musical instruments. At its centre, an open informal performance space extends the use of the building to the general public, and a series of bridges encourage people to congregate and watch the action beneath. A number of other flexible spaces also support the hall’s education, outreach and conference programmes.
Phase two involves sensitively restoring the listed building and Victorian second hall, refurbishing the back stage areas and creating new spaces for education.
The hall’s current interior has varied acoustic quality depending on where you’re sitting and the type of music being played. Our proposals will ensure that the sound is consistently good, and by reconfiguring some of the seating, the hall will also be more adaptable.
This phase of work also extends to the atmospheric cellars, which will be carefully converted to provide studios for learning and creativity, and an underground venue that will extend the Hall’s diverse musical reach even further.
Bristol’s new home of music now hosts performers from all musical genres and extends the city’s music education and outreach – something that can only strengthen when phase two completes in 2020.