The University of Liverpool’s campuses and facilities are a key enabler of its teaching and research excellence, its global outlook and its civic commitment. Developing such symbiosis between place and purpose requires continuous investment, though – which is why the University has recently launched a £1 billion estate masterplan, articulating a clear and coherent long-term vision for the future of its campuses.
The Music Performance Space was conceived during the development of this masterplan. Driven by timetable needs as well as its ambition to have a large-scale performance space on campus, the University identified the need to create a new teaching and performance hub unique in Liverpool.
The design of the Music Performance Space has been delivered by Ellis Williams, the award-winning practice behind the Baltic in Gateshead and the Storyhouse in Chester. University of Liverpool alumna, Jade Meeks (BA Hons 2015, MArch 2015), is the Project Architect.
“This is an unusual and very unique brief,” she says. “We quite often get commercial projects like offices and residential tower blocks, so to have something that’s rooted in the arts and culture is particularly exciting.”
The University’s brief outlined a requirement for three lecture theatres with projected capacities for 600, 450 and 400 based on teaching modules. It also outlined the need for a range of smaller seminar rooms, again sized to suit the projected timetables, as well as a performance space that can be readily used for practice and performance and for collaborative ventures with external partners.
“The University came to us looking for a gateway building,” says Jade. “The brief absolutely matched their ambition, and so our design has to reflect that. This building needs to look unique. It needs to be a statement piece. It needs a creative solution that can meet the scale of the University’s ambition for it.”
Ellis Williams proposed a multipurpose building with four storeys, including the prevision of two high-quality lecture theatres as well as a 400-seat, acoustically optimised music performance space. Named after the project’s largest single donors to date, the Tung Auditorium will be capable of facilitating full orchestras and will be able to function as a teaching space in its own right.
It is being developed as a high-performance acoustic space to support the requirements of the University’s Department of Music and will exist as a public-facing space for concerts outside of teaching time. It will be a venue that is rooted in, and has a positive contribution to, Liverpool’s bustling and varied music scene.
The building will also house a seminar and social learning space, back-of-house support, greenroom facilities, a box office and a campus catering facility.
Brick was identified early on as a clear lead material, both for its reference to the locality but also how well it performs in preventing low-frequency sound absorption into the building.
Lower Ground Floor
The lowest level of the building will contain the lower sections of the two key auditoria: the Tung Auditorium and Lecture Theatre 1. The back-of-house facilities will also be situated on this floor.
Upper Ground Floor
This level is intended as the main entrance floor and provides connections to all the key spaces in the building. The Tung Auditorium and Lecture Theatre 1 are designed in section to provide a connection between lower and upper ground, allowing for a simple circulation, internal flow and choice of access points to the theatres.
This floor contains the lower section of the 600-seat Lecture Theatre 2, the largest lecture theatre in the building. It also provides access to three multifunctional seminar rooms.
This is the highest accessible level and connects to the upper level (the back) of Lecture Theatre 2. The ability to access all of the main auditoria at two levels provides a deal of flexibility in operation as well as easing congestion during turnaround between lectures.
The architecture of music
Architecture has intrinsic connections to music. There is a lexicon shared across both: form, rhythm, volume, harmony, proportion, composition, light and layers.
The Music Performance Space will fit within the context of the University campus but also reference the craft of music-making and performance in subtle ways. The main functions of the building are by nature introverted, lacking external connections; rather than try to hide this, Ellis Williams aims to celebrate its volumes and maximise the opportunities for visual connections in circulation and non-lecture spaces.
Jade might not consider herself musically-inclined, but that doesn’t lessen her pride working on the project. “To think that I’ve got an opportunity to make an impact on the campus in which I studied is great.” she says. “It’s fulfilling, especially as this is going to be a gateway building. It’s a hugely important project for the University, and it’s a privilege to be working on it.”
To think that I’ve got an opportunity to make an impact on the campus in which I studied is great. It’s a hugely important project for the University, and it’s a privilege to be working on it.”Jade Meeks (BA Hons 2015, MArch 2015), Project Architect