Living in harmony

Combining a contemporary music college with a mix of residential accommodation, The Music Box is a new landmark for Southwark. Trevor Morriss, principal architect, explains to Jack Wooler how uses were carefully integrated to create a unique hybrid

SPPARC Architects is a distinctive and unusual new addition to its central London location. The building is home to both a music college and, above it, accommodation for 55 apartments.


The architects worked collaboratively with the dual clients, developer Taylor Wimpey Central London and the London College of Creative Media (LCCM). SPPARC were approached after the clients visited one of the practice’s nearby buildings in Southwark. There was already what SPPARC say was a “fairly frustrated” planning consent for the site, for a building significantly smaller than the Music Box, and the architects were brought in to find a new approach. After a complete reappraisal of the site, and how it worked within the urban grain, the architects identified a way to give it new life, blending the cultural and residential offerings into a new landmark for the area.

Core strength

It was a key part of the brief that these separate elements be physically distinct, identified easily from the surrounding south London streets. As such, the finished structure splits these two typologies into a distribution of a third at lower levels for the college, and two-thirds at upper levels for residential apartments. The base third, covering the first four floors of the Music Box, houses the private higher education college, LCCM. Rehearsal and performance spaces are located predominantly at the front of the building, along with a ground floor cafe, basement bar and music venue. The College’s


onnecting a new ‘cultural corridor’ between Southwark tube station and Tate Modern, The Music Box by

new home can accommodate 550 students, taking undergraduate degrees in subjects such as music performance and production, creative and professional writing, and music management.

The college portion has been constructed with distinct, horizontal, musically inspired masonry, around a porous design feature of cut-out glazing. This cut-out feature, sitting in the centre of the facade, allows a glimpse into the daily life of the college for those walking along the street, displaying the rehearsal and performance spaces. It also creates a dramatic entrance to both the college and the apartments. The higher thirds, with a triangular corner cantilevered over the entranceway, house the residential component. Enamel- finished fins run down between the floor to ceiling glazing on each level, creating a verticality to contrast and separate the two portions.

This residential component provides 41 high-end flats, along with affordable housing, sold to Wandle Housing Association, with seven homes for affordable rent, and seven for shared ownership. All of the private housing units have already been sold, and the affordable housing is fully occupied. With three different elements on the site, the music college, the market rent residential apartments, and the affordable residential portion, Trevor Morriss, principal at SPPARC, says it was “certainly a challenge” to implement an efficient floor space. “The building’s design had to

accommodate the high level of activity in the site,” he says. “The design of the core in the middle enabled this, as well as allowing for a very well balanced glass-to-core ratio, perfect for the residential uses.”


After a complete

reappraisal of the site, the architects identified a way to give it new life, blending the cultural and residential offerings into a new landmark for the area

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