Forge Arts by Burd Haward Architects, London
In an effort to recreate the intimate and calm context for which chamber music was originally composed - only this time in the heart of one of London’s busiest neighbourhoods - the Forge Arts venue opened recently in Camden Town.
Designed by Burd Haward Architects, the venue was a commission by owners Adam and Charlotte Caird, who dreamed of creating a concert hall based on natural acoustics rather than complex technologies. At the same time, this would also be contemporary and stylish, accompanied by a coffee bar or restaurant, merging music and food culture. The restaurant and café Caponata, run by the couple’s brother-in-law, quickly became part of the commission: an integral but also independent part of the complex.
The Forge is effectively the renovation and unification by design of what used to be three terraced houses. Burd Haward redesigned the complex, bringing together the existing inner covered courtyard, the restaurant and concert hall - an acoustic screen in the hall can be removed entirely, uniting the spaces if needed and allowing visitors to dine while listening to the music.
The courtyard space also plays a central role in the complex’s sustainability program, as it is the main source for daylight and natural ventilation. Additional energy-sustainable methods include taking advantage of orientation, layout and material qualities, as well as the use of solar thermal panels.
The architects worked with Arup Acoustics for the delicate acoustic result. The building’s shapes and interior sizes were designed around the best sound options. The materials – mainly brick and wood – were also chosen for their acoustic qualities, but also benefit the overall structure’s eco credentials, being as low impact and organic as possible.
Ultimately, the not-for-profit family-ran venture, which now also includes its own record label ‘Forge Records’, is an intimate 125-people venue hosted in an elegantly designed building and aims to nurture young musicians as well as attract the more established ones, by offering them architecturally and conceptually flexible and supportive creative platform.