Chetham's School of Music

Chetham's School of Music is the largest specialist music school in the UK, and this new building provides over 100 separate spaces for music performance and teaching, including a 520-seat concert hall, recital hall, and teaching and practice spaces as well as academic teaching facilities; on a restricted and sensitive site alongside Victoria Station and the River Irk Culvert in Central Manchester. 

The building needed three storeys of basement to house the concert hall, and its ventilation plenums and acoustic spring supports. We successfully negotiated the reuse of existing Victorian masonry walls outside of the boundary as temporary support. These walls were held back by rock anchors installed in Network Rail's land, creating a site free from temporary works obstructions, and allowing the new structures to be built right to the property line, maximising useable space for the school. 

The main building was completed in 2012, and in 2013 we were commissioned to continue with the completion of The Stoller Hall while the rest of the school remained operational. Access to the site was through a small "knock-out" panel in the original brickwork to the side of the building. The Stoller Hall was completed in 2017.

The structure is exposed in many places, notably in the in-situ concrete of the staircases, precast concrete in the feature stairs and elevations, steel structures in the saw-tooth roof of the atrium and the link footbridge, as well as being inherent in the bold geometry of cantilevers that characterise the building.

Linking the medieval buildings with the new was a key part of the brief. The bridge structure spans both the road and the buried culvert below it and is an elegant, expressive sculptural form, fabricated in stressed-skin Corten steel, with an acid etched composite concrete deck to aid damping and simple laminated glass balustrades.

Project Information


Stephenson Studio


Chethams School of Music




Daniel Hopkinson


RIBA North West Award 2017
Civic Trust Award 2013
RIBA Award 2013
RIBA North West Building of the Year Award 2013
Roses Design Award, Architecture: Future Buildings 2010