Royal Academy Of Music – Susie Sainsbury Theatre and Angela Burgess Recital Hall

Hidden behind the listed façade of the Royal Academy of Music’s Edwardian premises, surrounded by Grade I and Grade II listed buildings and located within the Regent’s Park conservation area, two distinct, outstanding performance spaces have been designed by Ian Ritchie Architects, alongside contractors Geoffrey Osborne Ltd, and seamlessly integrated within the historic site. Following its completion, the project has been awarded three RIBA awards including a RIBA London award, the RIBA London Building of the Year award and a RIBA National Award.

Key Information
Client: Royal Academy Of Music – Geoffrey Osborne Ltd
Project:Susie Sainsbury Theatre and Angela Burgess Recital Hall
Brief:Design, supply and install theatre electrical systems and specialist electrical works
Execution:Installed as part of a major construction project designed by Ian Ritche Architects

Push The Button (PTB) tendered the project and were awarded the contract. Typically, with similar contracts the division of responsibilities sees specialist theatre contractors, such as PTB, employed to supply and terminate the theatre electrical equipment with the Electrical Contractor employed to carry out the design and installation works. On this project however, the team recognised the experience of PTB would be invaluable to ensuring a consistent and well-designed electrical infrastructure and PTB were employed to carry out the full design and installation of all of the Electrical Systems within the Susie Sainsbury Theatre and Angela Burgess Recital Hall.

Designed for both opera and musical theatre productions, The Susie Sainsbury theatre sits at the heart of the Academy. The main transformations saw a full 10.6m tall fly tower replacing the old low grid, a new dock door and new catwalks to provide access to a new technical office and dimmer room. The Royal Academy of Music, already owning one ETC Sensor Dimmer, chose ETC Sensor Dimmers to complete the expansion of channels to 216 ways of ETC ThruPower control. PTB worked with ETC to ensure the new Sensor Dimmers were RAL coloured to perfectly match the existing Sensor Dimmer. PTB also installed new socket boxes around the theatre to provide Socapex outlets paired to 15A sockets.

For houselighting and working light control the project used ETC Paradigm with supply and installation also carried out by PTB. The Paradigm Architectural Control Processor was connected to Paradigm Touchscreen stations with Wireless Access Touchscreens also used in places. The houselighting solution used Erco Downlights with GDS Drivers to provide the theatrical dimming required. The houselighting solution also had a feature piece based on the concept of an exploding chandelier which had 600 crystals suspended at various heights implemented using fibre optic lightsources from Roblon.

Production lighting, also supplied by PTB, consisted of a 20 x ETC LED Series 2 Lustr Profiles with a variation of lens tubes and some ETC Source Four LED CYC Adapters, controlled by an ETC Gio Lighting Console. The moving lights selected were Martin Mac Encore Wash and Martin Mac Encore Performance with the Royal Academy of Music being the first venue in the country to take delivery of the brand new Mac Encore Washes. Push the Button also suppled Chroma Q Colour Force II’s with Cyc Adapters. These lights are rigged on stage and front of house lights are rigged from a curved bar in the ceiling and three motorised hoists.

The sound equipment was also supplied and installed by PTB, working with Mike Walker of Loh Humm Audio, with the challenge being to find the right balance of enough equipment to serve the everyday needs of a theatre that often performs opera or concert, productions that don’t need or want audio reinforcement, but sometimes houses events and musical theatre productions that do. To achieve this a comprehensive audio and video infrastructure was installed by PTB allowing the system to be set up quickly and easily when required. The system uses a Cadac Live1 mixing console feeding a system of Opus Audio Loudspeakers with T925 units on the pros and centre cluster, T118 subs and T300 foldback speakers, all driven by Opus audio amplification. The Cuelight system and communications system PTB provided used a two channel Clear-Com intercom system and PTB also designed a custom prompt desk to the client’s specification, using equipment from GDS. The twelve way Cuelight console fed eight patchable Cuelights and four which were fixed on the auditorium doors. The assisted listening system installed was a Sennheiser Infra-red system, using a mixture of stethoset and neck loop receivers.

Above the Theatre and acoustically isolated from all other buildings, the new 100-seat Recital Hall provides the Academy with a further 230m² space. Entirely lined in pale, lime-washed oak, an oculus floods the rooms with daylight and provides the space with a central focus. The Recital Hall has a footprint as large as that of the main stage, making it an ideal rehearsal space. During the day it is lit by daylight through a central overhead oculus window. The Recital Hall includes a technical infrastructure for sound, including connections through to the recording control room that sits at one side of the room. The lighting, supplied by PTB, comprised ETC D22 Desire Fittings with Twelve Core Battery Uplighters available to be freely distributed as required. The houselighting is by GDS 4 Cell Round Fittings. The dimming uses an ETC Smartpack controlled by an ETC ColorSource Console. The audio system has Opus Audio T-Iso6.3 Speakers with Opus amplification. Radio microphones used were from the Sure ULX-D range with countryman B3 microphones.