Soundhouse by Careyjones
and Jefferson Sheard



Careyjones architects and Jefferson Sheard Architects have completed Soundhouse, a rubber-clad music studio designed for the University of Sheffield.


"The overall aesthetic of the black rubber quilt is intended as a literal translation of the need to acoustically contain the building’s use," explains Mike Harris of Careyjones.


The three-storey building is covered with four 14 x 8 m rubber sheets, each weighing half a ton.


The sheets were stretched and fixed over the structure then decorated with stainless-steel studs, which were screwed into the reinforcement plates behind the insulation to create a quilted effect.


The following information is from Careyjones Architects:


Groundbreaking University of Sheffield building complete

The University of Sheffield’s state-of-the-art music practice and studio facility, the Soundhouse, is now complete. The striking development, conceptually designed by careyjones architects and delivered by Jefferson Sheard Architects, is completely enveloped in black rubber – a technique never seen before in the UK.

Covering 450sq m and is three storeys in height, the building’s unique black cube structure is set to become a landmark on the university campus, the bold and simple design reflecting the existing inventiveness of the Portobello area.

Professor Keith Burnett, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sheffield, said: “The Soundhouse is the first building to be completed in the second phase of our development of the Jessop site, with the first phase seeing the completion of the Sheffield Bioincubator. The unique state-of-the-art Soundhouse is an innovative addition to the campus and will allow our students to nurture and develop their passion for music in a modern and creative environment.”

Mike Harris, Director at careyjones architects, said: “Working with a forward thinking client such as the University of Sheffield allowed careyjones to really push the design boundaries for the Soundhouse. The pioneering ‘music box’ design creates a stunning piece of architecture that sits well as part of the dynamic urban fabric, respecting important existing and new buildings in the surrounding area. Furthermore, the overall aesthetic of the black rubber quilt is intended as a literal translation of the need to acoustically contain the building’s use contained within. As a practice we look forward to strengthening our relationship with the University and continuing our work in Sheffield.”

Tom Rhys Jones, Managing Director of Jefferson Sheard Architects, continues; “From the outset this project was always going to be technically challenging as it was highly innovative in terms of both the cladding and internal fit out. The building required intricate detailing at every stage; internally to meet the demanding acoustic requirements following through externally to the unique envelope of the Soundhouse using a construction method never before used in the UK.

“We believe the detailing has gone a long way to providing the University with the 21st Century flagship building which they envisaged when they approved the original design concept.”

The Soundhouse was constructed by Kier.

Technical note:

The use of rubberised tanking as an exposed external membrane has never before been undertaken here in the UK.

Such an innovative design solution to the external envelope of a building was a huge technical challenge to the designers, main contractor Kier Northern and the supply chain partners.

One key aspect was the off-site vulcanising of the rubber sheets, which involved welding 1500mm-wide sheets together to form a single homogenous sheet, with dimensions of 14m x 8m. There were to be four in total, one for each elevation of the building. Each sheet weighed half a ton and a safe system of works was devised for their installation and final fix to the external structure.

The rubber membrane was placed under tension similar to the skin on a drum, fixed and then decorated with 100mm diameter stainless steel studs. These studs were adjustable and could be screwed back to the reinforcing plates behind the insulation and rubber quilt, thus compressing the insulation and creating the quilted effect.

Acoustic treatments

To satisfy the stringent acoustic requirements, the Soundhouse’s frame was subjected to a number of treatments. The use of dense, double skin blockwork with high specification insulation was the main strategy to reduce the effects of external noise. All connections of the building fabric to the frame had to be acoustically isolated to maintain the acoustics.

These works involved exhaustive detailing and physical on-site inspections through the quality management system. The building was then subjected to stringent on-site acoustic testing by two separate teams of acousticians.

Posted on Wednesday September 24th 2008 at 1:25 pm by . Copyright policy | Comments policy

  • architect

    The ‘subtle’ shifts in elevation are strange. One wonders what is wrong.
    The relationship of the horizontal top of the entrance frame and the slight slant of the rubber cladding is making me shudder…
    Otherwise pretty unremarkable.

  • Azeem

    WOW Excellent Build quality! Good DESIGN TOO!

  • brown_ie

    PERFECT!!!!!…..we need interiors pics please!!!! …

  • aesthetically very elegant /interesting in terms of materials… great detailing, black rubber and stainless steel really work well together…. would be interesting to see some plans……..i love the form/long stainless steel window… congratulations…

  • msa

    i wonder how this will look after a few years in the sun and the rain – but hey – they got the pictures for dezeen taken already, so it can’t be that important

  • Seb

    I wonder how it will look in a few years too. That’s the great thing about buildings, they don’t remain static or pristine as if they were museum pieces.

  • K. Rimane

    We want to see the indoor too!

  • Rubber!? Outdoor?! Never ceased to surprise us how architects have become super-artistic they ain’t architects anymore.

    Dezeen, tell us about ur selection process, will ya?

  • wartian

    the external of the building look quite different with surrounding buildings yet still manage to make a good relation with the environment.Look chic yet nostalgia…probably NOSTALCHIC..!! This is what i look for Vivienne westwood design studio….!

    anyway, i agree with architect that the slanting rubber cladding may looked a bit heavy for me..

    I m not a musician but i hink that music is full of melodies, sometimes gentle and sometimes is impassioned, mild and wild. The tone and node change from the beginning till the music end. I think this might be pretty good if the building will be able to response to the languege of music and transform it to the space.Prof Bryan Lawson from University of Sheffield taught me these in his book-Language of space.!!!!A good book to introduce to our lovely dezeeners.

  • henkjan

    that looks a lot like popcentre 013 in Tilburg, NL by Benthem Crouwel

  • Jeremiah

    Joaquin, “Rubber!? Outdoor?!”, have you ever heard of a rubber roof? Why cant rubber be used outside? It’s waterproof. And just because it doesn’t look like most of the trash out there, or because it isn’t a traditional use of material doesn’t degrade it’s value. You might not like it, and if you don’t just say that. Say why, but don’t say it is because architect’s are becoming too artistic. It is a blurry line. Even Michaelangelo was an architect! As for Dezeen, I might not like everything you post, but so what. Keep it coming!

  • J

    Why are people complaining so much about Dezeen’s selection process? If you don’t like something, that’s fine, but it’s subjective. So skip the articlen (or Dezeen) if it’s bothering you. Of course, you can have criticism on a project, but stop whining about Dezeen’s choice of projects.

  • da

    neo POMO…

  • freedom

    yeah henkjan! i almost forgot the name of that building in tilburg.

  • Wow..bringing the acoustics outside!! What an idea! Looks great and performs! wicked!

  • Henkjahn is right. It seems a pretty literal ‘inspiration’ from the 1998 Tilburg building. Even the proposed functions are related. Sometimes ideas evolve simultaneously in more than one part of the world, but… in this case I think a footnote or any other kind of written reference by the english studio would be one way to show their full respect to their dutch colleagues to the public.

  • kingmu

    i like everything about this.

  • Jeroen

    I agree fully with Flip. There is no problem with re-using a good idea from 10 years ago, but if the source of inspiration is so obvious and so little modified, claiming it as entirely one’s own, new design seems to outline a lack of self confidence by the architects. A reference by the architects to the Benthem Crouwel project would be to the credit of CareyJones.

  • yes, it is a little bit disappointing to see such a literal translation of the design of the 1998. Tiburg building without giving reference to it…

  • I am certainly no expert on architecture but I love this building – I go past it every morning on the way to work, but it is a bit of a shame to learn it is not an original idea, but I am still a big fan of this unusual building

  • Me

    It is possible for two poeple to indipendently come up with similar ideas, whether they are 1000 miles, 10 yrs, 500 yrs removed. It’s been known to happen, strangely enough!

  • odile dimitri dupont

    “i wonder how this will look after a few years in the sun and the rain – but hey – they got the pictures for dezeen taken already, so it can’t be that important”

    looks like, after 2 years, it still is in good shape: