There’s a spot on the fourth floor of the newly renovated Royal Conservatory of Music (RCM) building where the glass roof of the new structure slants upwards to gently meet the gabled rooftops and ornate spire of the restored Victorian building. It’s a prescient snapshot of the impressive RCM renovation, where past tradition blends with future vision.
For years, the old Victorian building on Bloor Street in Toronto was badly in need of repair. The roof leaked, the paint on the bricks was peeling, and the heating system didn’t work properly.
Starting in 2002, the RCM launched a campaign to raise $110-million for an extensive makeover, bringing in Telus as the lead sponsor. The federal and provincial governments, other corporations, and individual donors also contributed.
Marianne McKenna of Kuwabara Payne McKenna Blumberg Architects refurbished the Victorian building and designed a new structure that wraps around the old building in an L shape. Three years after construction began, the site now features state-of-the-art studios, classrooms, performance spaces, and rehearsal halls. The 1,140-seat Koerner Concert Hall is still under construction and is set to open September 25 (coinciding with the birthday of Glenn Gould, an RCM alumnus).
Walking along the hall on the lower floors of the modern section, you can peer into the studios and see students practising. Light floods in through the large windows of the studios that overlook the peaceful, leafy Philosopher’s Walk outside, while students draw forth classical music out of black grand pianos. On the second floor you’ll discover an airy new rehearsal hall with superior acoustics.
Of course, the architects weren’t just constructing a pleasing structure; they aimed to create a world-class music and arts school. Echoing the architecture, the RCM has updated its programming, once again blending traditional and modern.
The public’s response has been enthusiastic, so the RCM launched new programs at the Calgary Centre of Excellence earlier this year. The Vancouver Centre of Excellence is slated to open in the fall of 2010.
Royal Conservatory images provided by KPMB Architects/Q Studio.