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An institution of immense repute for over a century, honing extraordinary musical talent, The Tianjin branch campus of the Juilliard School opened late last year, located 45 minutes from Beijing. Adding another unique architectural edifice, a visual landmark building in its own right, alongside several new planned on Chinese soil, the school intends to bring Juilliard’s artistic and educational mission to a wider global audience. A joint venture partnership among The Juilliard School, the Tianjin Conservatory of Music (TJCM), Tianjin Economic Technological Development Area Administrative Commission, and the Tianjin Innovative Financial Investment Co. (TIFI), the school is the first performing arts institution in China to confer a US accredited Master of Music degree in one of three majors, including Orchestral Studies, Chamber Music, and Collaborative Piano.
New York-based Diller Scofidio + Renfro has eloquently designed and completed the Tianjin campus of the prestigious music school. Interestingly, the firm also oversaw the 2009 expansion of the iconic Juilliard campus in NYC. Spread over 350,000 square feet, the building is structured in a blocked, segmented manner, harbouring a high degree of unification and connection within. The connect, both physical in its spatiality, and digital, employing leading technologies to double up on the centre’s call for collaboration between students and faculty, does so not only for the Tianjin campus, but for the overseas NYC campus as well. Comprising a 690-seat concert hall, a 299-seat recital hall, and a 225-seat black box theatre, apart from administrative, faculty, and rehearsal programmes, the design of the new campus is replete with design features that pay tribute to those of the NY Juilliard School.
Four faceted pavilions compose the building with a state-of-the-art industrial aesthetic, while five glass bridges span an expansive public space connecting the surrounding park with the building, serving as a natural extension of the centre itself into the great outdoors. Delving into and banking upon casual musical exchanges between patrons and visitors, impromptu, informal performances, practices, the bridges and the expansive green open space outside are both designed with an increasingly public and ‘open’ outlook, fostering communication. The comprehensively trussed bridges too house two levels of instructional spaces, including 12 classrooms, 23 teaching studios, and 86 practice rooms that can be viewed from the lobby below. Double height lounges welcome students at the intersection of the bridges, with panoramic views of the city and the Hai river, all clad in transparent glass to also encourage visual and auditory access into the happenings and activities on campus.
The glass clad bridges leave a generous column-free space beneath them, serving an additional layer of convivial space, essential to academic institutions, especially ones offering creative and artistic courses of study. The four atriums formed on the ground, lined by these bridges above, are all sky lit, bordered upon by six entrances to this sanctum of the campus, accessible from every direction. The grove seating, a café, and tilt-up grandstand seating are outstanding features of the interconnected atria, a spatial prelude to all three concert venues in house that are often open to the public.
Extensively landscaped plazas to the North and South of the building serve as the outermost public layer of this multidimensional edifice. Designed in collaboration with Hargeaves Jones, the North Plaza is rife with a series of gardens that essentially form the grain of public connection between the school and the town square, riverfront, and a high speed railway station. The South Plaza on the other hand features an informal performance avenue for the school in the form of a plaza with stepped, piano like seating and planting. A gorgeous reflecting pool creates a dialogue of quiet introspection, of mirroring between itself and the nearby Hai river.
The project also ranks high on acoustic and sustainable energy specifications. Without compromising the building’s openness and transparency, a key design element, TSJ achieves an appreciable level of acoustic and noise control, especially in its performance spaces. Box-in-box isolation, adjustable acoustic banners, custom made steel acoustic doors in practice and teaching areas, acoustic isolation of the main concert hall using giant springs, and an acoustic resonant chamber beneath the stage that helps in enhancing the sound of cello and bass are just some of the measures commonly employed by DS+R between the TJS and its 2009 NYC expansion of the original campus.
The glazing of the bridges, while modified to let moderate sound trickling out and into them from the practice spaces, are composed of triple glazed IGU enclosures that also provide resolute solar protection. Generously daylit, the atria in the middle harbour external landscaping with ease, while solar heat gain is reduced by radiant cooling coils embedded within structural foundation piles. Additionally, the concert and recital halls, outstanding design elements within the larger campus in their own right, utilise ventilation through underfloor displacement for improved air quality, thermal comfort and cooling, along with improved energy performance. “As both an educational tool and a performance vessel, the building acts a finely tuned and highly crafted instrument in and of itself," states Charles Renfro, partner in-charge at DS+R, on the visually and aurally porous nature of the building.
Name: The Tianjin Juilliard School
Location: Tianjin, China
Design Architect: Diller Scofidio + Renfro
Executive Architect: East China Architectural Design & Research Institute (ECADI)
Landscape: Hargreaves Jones
Structure/MEP: ECADI with Arup
Acoustics: Jaffe Holden Acoustics
Theater: Fisher Dachs Associates
Lighting: Tillotson Design Associates
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