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Part 1 Project 2009
David Champion
University of Cambridge, UK
The Roswell Music Academy is to be a residential music school for 30 young chamber music players, and a public performance space, incorporating auditorium seating for an audience of 200.

The chosen site, in the countryside near Ely, became dislocated to local pedestrians by the construction of a commercial rail track in the early 21st century. Drawing from in-depth studies of the acoustic climate created by these trains, the architecture generates a connection to each side of the tracks that also enhances the public experience of music performed within. Both the building’s form and its landscape are sculpted to offer a loud and vivid initial acoustic environment, directly beneath the passing trains. However, using a series of test models and a strip of light to visualize the propagation of sound waves, I arrived at a design that reflected unwanted noise away from the musically sensitive areas, thus ensuring a calm and undisturbed auditory environment by contrast.

Ely Cathedral, which rises above the academy, offers precedent for my approach to construction, with its heavy stone masonry and strong sense of connectivity with the earth. British slate stone, quarried just 35 minutes by train from the site, forms every wall surface and, while its horizontal directionality serves to give a strong sense of movement to the composition (perpendicular to that of the trains) its density produces the desired auditory dynamic. Working to strengthen this directionality, I developed a language for the roof consisting of deep, slender concrete beams in catenary suspension, which converge over darker areas of transient pedestrian movement, and diverge to emit more light and promote moments of visual or auditory contemplation.

David Champion

David's major project was the design of a residential music school and
public performance hall on a site on the edge of Ely that spanned from
city edge to the fens.

In a year divided into three stages, Tool, Device and Building, David took an abstract idea concerning sound and used it in a practical way to structure his architecture. At the start a short project in which he constructed (with two others) a Tool that enabled him to describe how form and material responded to the specific frequencies existing on the site fired his research interest. This data was then employed in the design of a small building (the Device project) that set out his thesis for the year's work. Subsequently David's major building project has investigated how architectural form can both be affected by, and affect sound. In its final form, and following careful analysis of how sound behaves, it represents the orchestration of a route from exterior to interior through a series of spaces with different acoustic properties, i.e. it focuses on architecture as soundscape.

Tellingly, instead of being drawn to the overtly picturesque qualities of the
wider site, David chose a location immediately adjacent to, and straddling, the mainline railway, and produced a building that acknowledged, and even celebrated, its more anarchic but rhythmic configuration of noise. David's material concerns were also linked to his central thesis and accordingly, structural and constructional principles were selected on the basis of his ongoing acoustic research.

Combining an interest in the lyrical qualities of space with methodical research, David worked at 1:2500/1250/500/200/100/50/20/10/5/1 throughout the
year, producing a vast range of iterative and experimental models. This synergistic design process is reflected in the resolution of a final proposal whose reciprocal interplay of landscape, building and detail becomes its defining poetic.


Mr José Esteves De Matos
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