John Wood has been the site manager of the restoration and improvement works for Aberdeen Music Hall. Re-opening in December 2018, the new Music Hall is set to delight the next generation thanks to its new performance spaces and improved facilities. Here, John shares his thoughts on this rewarding project.
“Aberdeen Music Hall is a national treasure, steeped in history it has been serving the local community since 1859. When we were appointed to carry out the improvements in 2016, it was a very proud moment for me personally, to know that I would be playing a pivotal role in transforming this magnificent Grade A listed building.
The Music Hall needed to be updated to cater for the evolving needs of the 21st century audience, however it was imperative that we didn’t lose some of the gems that make the building so unique. We needed to preserve its renowned acoustics and historic Willis organ as well as safeguarding its Strachan murals.
Our extensive experience within the heritage and cultural sector, including our work on the Royal Opera House and Edinburgh College of Art, meant our skilled teams could utilise their building conservation techniques. We ran a heritage workshop in partnership with Historic Environment Scotland so that attendees could gain an insight in to some of the methods we were using on the project, including lead and slate work, horse hair plastering and stone replacement/repairs.
The demolition and excavation works required us to work closely with the client, consultants and our in-house specialist team to understand all aspects of the building as it had limited ‘as built’ information being a historic building. Following this, we turned our attention to the auditorium where we have created a 100-seat performance space.
All aspects of the internal layout needed fully modernising and as a result it has been transformed, now offering more flexible staging with improved rehearsal rooms and upgraded artist facilities, a new foyer area as well as a café and bars. In addition, it now provides vibrant learning spaces, meeting rooms and offices. Critically, access to and around the Music Hall has been drastically improved, with ramps and lifts to all areas.
As a focal point of the city, the local community have been keen to understand the project and its progression throughout our two years on site. We have provided regular updates as well as being active members within the community, where we have worked with Social Bite to provide meals for the homeless.
What’s more, we have provided a number of job and training opportunities, including 24 apprenticeships. In addition, 60% of our supply chain has been local to the project.
We have engaged with over 350 schoolchildren and college and university students, providing STEM and careers talks as well as site visits. This is part of a campaign we launched in 2017, called Shaping Your World™, to inspire the next generation of talent to consider a role within the built environment. We’ve installed Virtual World Plaques™ on buildings across the UK, whereby members of the public can use augmented reality, through their mobile phones, to find out more about the project and the people behind it.
I’m extremely honoured to have been site manager for this project. Our work will help Aberdeen Music Hall’s legacy live on and delight future generations and that’s music to my ears!”