Aberdeen’s Music Hall set for design revamp

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A LEADING firm of international architects has been appointed to develop new design proposals to breathe new life into Aberdeen’s “sleeping beauty of a building” - the Music Hall.

The iconic A-listed building is set for a design revamp after the appointment of an international architecture firm behind the refurbishment of Glasgow’s Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum and Perth Concert Hall.

Aberdeen Performing Arts yesterday (wed) announced Building Design Partnership has won an international design competition to transform the iconic performance venue in the heart of the city.

Graeme Roberts, chairman of the APA board, said: “A revitalised Music Hall has an important role to play in Aberdeen’s vision to be a vibrant, creative and ambitious city with a strong cultural identity, a centre of artistic excellence and a cultural tourism destination.

“The Music Hall is a much-loved, much-used, A-listed building, but more than 154 years of assemblies, concerts, fairs, functions, rallies, shows and cabarets have taken their toll and it desperately needs refurbishment.”

He continued: “With the support of Aberdeen City Council, we felt that an architectural design competition would attract some innovative and original ideas for making the most of this iconic Aberdeen landmark.

“We were impressed by the approach presented by the BDP team which blended the restoration and conservation of the historic fabric of the building with innovative design led solutions to improving the customer experience.”

BDP architect director Bruce Kennedy his iorganisation was “thrilled” to be selected for the prestigious project on the Union Street site.

He said: “The transformation of this wonderful ‘sleeping beauty’ of a building, into a truly great and popular cultural, civic and community asset, must be a key element in supporting city centre regeneration and APA’s vision for the future.”

The current concert hall was designed by prominent Aberdeen architect Archibald Simpson. It was originally built in 1822 as the city’s Assembly Rooms and was turned into a concert hall in 1859.

Aberdeen’s Lord Provost, Councillor George Adam, said: “This is a hugely exciting time in the cultural life of Aberdeen as we prepare to make our submission to become the UK’s City of Culture in 2017.

“The Music Hall is at the very heart of the arts in the city and will continue have an important role to play as we celebrate a year of culture in 2017 and beyond.”

He added: “I am certain that an architectural practice with such an impressive track record will come up with innovative ideas to breathe new life into one Union Street’s most impressive buildings.

“This will be a major boost for the city centre and will help make the venue one of the leading lights in our City of Culture bid.”

A spokeswoman for APA said work would begin “straight away” to start developing designs for the Music Hall with a view to launching a fundraising campaign later in the year and submitting an application to Creative Scotland’s capital investment programme.

He said: “While the proposals are still very much in the early stages, we have already carried out some improvements to the city centre building, by lifting the carpets in entrance hall and promenade to reveal the 190-year-old terrazzo flooring underneath.

“The mosaic flooring, a hidden architectural gem, was covered by carpeting in the 1980s in line with the style of the times.”

Charles Dickens was one of many leading Victorian figures who starred at the Music Hall after it opened as the city’s Assembly Rooms. But in 1858, the building was sold by the trustees to the newly formed Aberdeen Music Hall Company which extended the building to accommodate a new concert hall.

The Music Hall was bought by Aberdeen City Council in 1928 when the Music Hall Company went into liquidation. The Music Hall has been operated since 2005 by Aberdeen Performing Arts, the company established to run both the council-owned Music Hall and His Majesty’s Theatre.