Designed by SPPARC Architecture as “a place for living and a space for learning”, the 14-storey Music Box is a mixed-use development incorporating a campus for the London College of Contemporary Media (LCCM) and 55 residential units, including on-site affordable housing. The college occupies the basement up to the fourth floor, and above are the residential units with a mix of tenures, developed by Taylor Wimpey Central London. A landscaped public realm and ground-floor cafe complete the 10,000-square-metre project.
The site, near to Southwark underground station, is bound by a railway viaduct to the east and local authority housing to the west. The purity of the built form is reflected in the simplicity of its external surfaces, with a clear differentiation between the brick-clad college and the apartments above. SPPARC Architecture’s design is intended to respond to the variety and differing scales of the surrounding properties while relating to the robust horizontal intervention of the adjacent elevated viaduct.
Within these parameters, the design of The Music Box is also informed by Golden Section proportional systems and the rhythm and format of musical composition. SPPARC says the project represents “an exploration of the spatial ideas of sound, noise, acoustics, melody and harmony through the use and format of the external materials and their colour”.
The use of brick reflects the robust character of the surrounding area while its white colour imbues the building with its own identity. The sustainable use of masonry, sensitive urban design and strong architectural detailing are key principles that have informed its delivery and help integrate it with the London Borough of Southwark’s defined cultural corridor.
The three-dimensional projecting brickwork pattern, which required special bricks glazed on all visible surfaces, reads like a sheet of musical notes across the page, providing relief, rhythm and interest. “Those able to read guitar tab”, says SPPARC, “may recognise that the brick patterns resemble Eric Clapton’s guitar riff in Cream’s song ‘White Room’”. The glazed brick facade is returned with special bricks at the head and sill into a random pattern of long and slender deep recessed windows intended to reinforce the robust nature and horizontal emphasis of the base.
The Music Box, says SPPARC, “is centred on the design philosophy of systems of harmony and proportion. Faith in mathematical order closely bound to the golden ratio has produced a form and external rhythm apparent to the eye and clear in their relationships with one another”.