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THE MUSIC BOX, SOUTHWARK, LONDON


This verticality is manifested largely in the fins which run beside the glazing. They are of textured enamel on a steel backing, with the steel backing creating the vertical spine. Referencing piano keys, the fins provide more than just aesthetics however. Through their vertical junctions, the fins channel fresh air into the apartments. With the homes’ ventilation requirements fully provided for, opening windows were consequently unnecessary in the residential portion. This allows for floor to ceiling glazing throughout the apartments. Additionally, the angle of the fins provides privacy from the outside world, and changes the building’s appearance when it is viewed from different sides. Head on, the building appears to be transparent, but from the side, the building looks like a solid cube.


Going for gold


With visual definition between functions being fundamental in the design of the Music Box, it was important that these elements be blended effectively. While this was in part achieved through materiality, Trevor tells ADF that applying the Golden Ratio was key in combining the separate functions. “The reason that the Golden Ratio comes out as an identity is because we didn’t want the architecture to challenge the creativity that was going on inside the building,” says Morriss.


“We were hugely immersed, engaged and interested in the internal functions. It doesn’t often come around that you are able to design a contemporary music college, with this being only one of two in Europe. That challenge was a fantastic opportunity for us. What we didn’t want to do was have the architecture overpower that.”


As a well-known mathematical proportion, the Golden Ratio has been used throughout history, not just in architecture, but music and even in the human body itself. This ‘perfect’ ratio is defined as when the ratio of two quantities is the same as the ratio of their sum to the larger of the two quantities – essentially, the proportion between two-thirds and one-third.


“We wanted to bring this concept into the building. Music is a very pure form of art, so we wanted the architecture to be in a very pure form itself,” details Morriss. “This idea also worked perfectly to allow us to create a building with two sections.” He adds: “It’s definitely a building of two


halves, but you can recognise that the base of the building has a different function to the top of the building, and that’s manifested through architecture.”


ADF FEBRUARY 2019 Internal composition


The architects put a substantial focus on creating privacy for the residents, while retaining a visible entrance into the college. When walking along Union Street, people can easily recognise it as a college, while more discreet entrances (one for the market rent apartments, one for affordable housing) are placed alongside for residents, their exterior continuing the musical notation pattern from the facade above. Internally, the architect says there’s a “warmth” that is carried throughout the design. The flooring and doors are of timber, and the interior design is clean and modern throughout the corridors and apartments. Leading into the homes, the musical theme has been continued, with the doors made from lacquered white wood, again referring to piano keys. Full floor-to-ceiling glazing extends throughout the apartments, with daylighting maximised in the dual aspect units. In order to prevent the single aspect units from suffering by comparison, the architects ensured that none faced north. On the residential portion of The Music


Box, the glass fins that extend from the top of the building to the top of the college, as well as providing the apartments with fresh air, allow for the level of glazing to be maximised. This provides significant extra daylighting, and gives residents uninterrupted views of the London skyline. Inside the college, the full height glazing has been continued, flooding the rehearsal spaces and study areas with an abundance of


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The Golden Ratio was used as a key design driver for achieving the right balance between the college and residential elements


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