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Redesigning rehearsal spaces for musicians using empty buildings

Literature Review

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LITERATURE REVIEW: Redesigning rehearsal spaces for musicians using empty buildings



A music rehearsal space refers to a room or several rooms reserved for music-making and practice (Fitzpatrick 2013, 63). In a typical case, it is a soundproof room with an acoustic environment. The spaces can combine recording and rehearsal functions to serve the unique needs of musicians. There are numerous types of rehearsal spaces that artists use, including shared rooms, community centers, and makeshift halls. Fitzpatrick (2013, 63) posits that a dedicated and fully equipped rehearsal space gives artists a setting to perfect their art, per-formance skills, and compositions. Furthermore, it provides opportunities for new musicians to hone their abilities and learn how to perform before different audiences. Martin and Flori-da (2016, par 4) support this claim by noting that a good space nurtures and supports the mu-sic composition process, encourages the expression of ideas, and makes musicians feel com-fortable. Thus, all artists require a proper space and environment to rehearse and achieve their musical goals and dreams in today’s competitive and highly globalized world.

Although scholars and stakeholders agree that rehearsal spaces are important for musi-cians, their availability remains a major problem in some regions and countries. Martin and Florida (2016, par 3) aver that the need for rehearsal rooms has become a necessity today. In the past, most people viewed live performance as a tool for promoting album sales. Therefore, the more a group performed, the more it sold their records (Martin & Florida 2016, par 3). In the last two decades, however, live performance has become an important source of revenue. The trend has increased the need for artists to access equipped rehearsal spaces (Martin & Florida, 2016, par 4).

Today, there is a lack of rehearsal spaces in many countries across the globe. Many stakeholders, researchers, and musicians have come out in various countries to complain about the scarcity of this important facility. One such area is Sydney. According to Bagshaw (2016, par 6), “a drought of adequate rehearsal spaces for musicians in Sydney has prompted the council to open up 17 public buildings as practice spaces for young musicians.” The author adds that rehearsal space is everything that some artists need to succeed in their undertakings. More specifically, it influences the kind of music that artists create and how they perform to live audiences. Bagshaw (2016, par 12) links the scarcity of such spaces to the growing popu-lation in most Australian towns, Sydney included. As the city’s population increases, more people move into available apartments and, in the process, make it hard for performers and musicians to get suitable spaces to rehearse and play. The author adds that without proper spaces, artists and bands cannot learn and practice how to write good songs, perform in front of audiences, and perfect their skills.

Concerns about the lack of sufficient spaces to rehearse have also emerged in the city of Toronto in the recent years. A study by Martin & Florida (2016, par 10) reported that ac-cess, affordability, and suitability of rehearsal spaces are among the biggest challenges that independent musicians face in Toronto. During the study, the researchers noted that the Greater Toronto area has a total of 13 rehearsal rooms and studios with monthly leases. Not surprisingly, the study “showed that the price of monthly rehearsal spaces for musicians in the central city were the most costly” (Martin & Florida 2016, par 2). The researchers went on to note that event singers who live within Toronto's core may not have access to spaces to re-hearse, train, and get ready for shows. The trend stems sonic requirement for space and the fact that most landlords, building’s physical nature, and tenets do not support the establish-ment of rehearsal spaces. The findings and arguments in the study by Martin and Florida (2016) seem to support the views raised by Monts (2013) on the rehearsal space shortage in Prague. Monts (2013, par 2) posits that lack of training and rehearsal spaces is "an age-old problem that has plagued up & coming musicians since the beginning of time." As the city’s population increases, most Prague musicians and bands try to look for rehearsal rooms in grimy attic spaces. Although there are well-equipped studios for established musicians, accessing those areas is a tall order for budding musicians and bands.

Converting old buildings

In the recent years, countries like Canada and the Czech Republic have focused on dealing with the shortage of rehearsal spaces. The move is informed by the realization that music is an important part of modern culture and that musicians cannot hone their skills properly without practicing and rehearsing. Martin and Florida (2016, par 7) noted that part of the ongoing debates and discussion in Toronto is how to use available spaces efficiently to support music. Besides, the city has witnessed a push by the Economic Development and Culture Division to understand the needs and challenges of musicians living in Toronto’s core with regards to accessing affordable rehearsal opportunities and spaces. One of the interventions that the local government uses to address the problem is converting and reusing historic structures across the city. The response is meant to help the city build up more spaces for rehearsal and attract more musicians in the area.

Converting old buildings into new usable spaces is one of the cost-effective approaches that many cities use to deal with room and space shortage today. It can be assumed that redesigning historical buildings can be environmentally sustainable and cost-effective, and many people and stakeholders believe that the best designs and building solution often come when the old merge with the new. To support his arguments, the author gives the example of historic buildings like the Market Santa Caterina, Mass MOCA, and Neues Museum in Berlin that came into life following their structural transformation. The trend has taken root in cities such as Sydney. According to Bagshaw (2016, par 8), the government has transformed and opened up old and underutilized centres and halls in Sydney to create more rehearsal places for musicians. The successful conversion of existing buildings into proper rehearsal spaces in Prague further attests to the efficacy of the solution. According to Monts (2013, par 5), Converse successfully created a new and well equipment rehearsal studio to support artists in Prague in achieving their dreams.

Different countries and cities have successfully converted old and dysfunctional buildings into useful new spaces for arts and music on a large scale. Wang, Oakes, and Yang, (2016) give the example of Singapore and European cities like London that have created new sites from old spaces. In Singapore, the Ministry of Community Development identified and successfully converted old buildings into "suitable housing, to be leased to select artists at highly subsidized rates for use as offices, studios, administrative, rehearsal, and performance spaces (Wang, Oakes & Yang, 2016, 101). These sites help artists to revitalize and improve their talents. Furthermore, they support the integration of art and music into the everyday life of local communities. The success of the Singaporean projects motivated other nations like Indian to identify and remodel old buildings to create more spaces for artists and musicians. In the long run, such initiatives not only support the development of art and music but also spur growth by providing new sources of revenue (Wang, Oakes & Yang, 2016, 101).

While the conversion of existing historic buildings into new rehearsal spaces remains a viable option to the current problem, the process has its fair share of challenges. It should be mentioned that remodelling and transforming existing buildings is a complicated process. While some nations have successfully reused historic buildings, the transformation process requires expertise, skills, and resources. To realize the desired outcomes, architects must work hard to address the various environmental, aesthetic, programmatic, and contextual challenges that exist in such buildings. Coles and House (2007, 9) add to the debate by noting that transforming existing buildings into the aesthetically appealing products requires the close collaboration between architects and profession interior designers. Furthermore, the team must strive to come up with spatial solutions that fit and support the needs of the users of the building in questions. Lee, Main, and Main (2000, 45) posit that converting old and historic buildings and landmarks into new structures and rooms preserves the integrity of original architectural elements and features like mezzanines and staircases. However, it requires perfect guides for renovation of buildings. Moreover, it requires the expertise of salvage companies, restoration specialists, interior designers, and architects. These are concerns that stakeholders must take into account when working with historic buildings to create proper rehearsal spaces for musicians.


Landlords, tenants, and other members of a given community often associate rehearsal spaces with constant and loud noise. In some instances, this notion drives them to oppose the creation of such rooms within their apartments or in the vicinity of their areas of residence. In Toronto, for example, the opposition from local communities and landlords has left a small niche market and minimal opportunities for rehearsal spaces.

Even in cases where the spaces are available, proprietors must invest in the right equipment and material to ensure that their activities do not impact negatively on the surrounding communities. While old and unused buildings provide a reliable solution to the current rehearsal space shortage around the globe, opposition from the surrounding communities remains a major obstacle. When redesigning old buildings, project managers have to involve many architects and designers to transform the objects effectively and minimize all risks and overcome obstacles. Wang, Oakes, and Yang (2016, 143) support this argument by noting that communities often have some form of attachment to historic landmarks and structures. The authors add that while recycling former industrial, commercial, agricultural, and municipal structures to create new spaces, the involved parties should strive to preserve the essential architectural features and involve local communities. The process entails looking for fresh ideas from local communities and taking their views into considering when revitalizing the old landmarks.

The tension that may exist between planners and local communities when it comes to architectural projects is an area of interest for many scholars, architects, and policy makers for a long time. According to Freestone (2012, 133), local communities often have individual interests in various buildings, and structures in their neighbourhoods. When planners and designers alter such buildings without involving the locals, they often face opposition that may hinder the overall outcome of such undertaking. RIB (2013, 3) proposes a solution to the problem by suggesting that planners and developers ought to establish communication and consultation mechanism with local communities and rally them to support the project in question. This way, members of the community will change from being passive participants to become active stakeholders in the project. Furthermore, the intervention will resolve cases of conflicts and unnecessary litigations that may hinder and compromise the projects. Taking this into perspective, it is apparent that transforming old buildings into rehearsal spaces will require the active participation of local communities. By involving tenants, landlords, and other residents, planners and architects will not only get an opportunity to respond to their concerns but also enlighten them on the importance and impact of the said initiatives. Furthermore, it will ensure that every stakeholder supports the idea and reduces unnecessary confrontations that can lead to time and cost overruns.


From the literature review, there seem to be a consensus among stakeholders that rehearsal spaces play a critical part in the career of musicians. Through such rooms, singers can train, rehearse, learn new skills, and prepare for their performance. Unfortunately, a number of countries, cities, and urban centres lack sufficient rehearsal rooms for musicians. While the causes of the shortage differ from one area to the other, a review of existing literature points towards the growing urban population, scarcity of buildings and spaces, and lack of physical spaces to put up such facilities. The analysis further reveals that the shortage of rehearsal spaces has left musicians practicing in poorly designed and equipped settings while others resort to paying for the costly services provided by the few studios in the neighbourhood.. Scholars agree that converting old buildings into new spaces and rooms is more sustainable, environmentally friendly, and cost-effective as compared to putting up a new structure. However, the process requires the participation and active involvement of local communities to prevent unnecessary confrontation and reduce cases of cost and time overruns.


Bagshaw, E. (2016). Free rehearsal spaces for musicians in Sydney. [online] The Sydney Morning Herald. Available at: [Accessed 8 Dec. 2016].

Coles, J., & House, N. (2007). The fundamentals of interior architecture. Lausanne: AVA Academia.

Fitzpatrick, T. (2013). Playwright, space, and place in early modern performance: Shakespeare and company, Farnham: Ashgate Publishing.

Freestone, R. (2011). Urban planning in a changing world: The twentieth century experience. Routledge, New York.

Lee, V, Main, R & Main, R. (2000). Recycled spaces: converting buildings into homes. London: Soma Books.

Martin. R, & Florida, R. (2016). This is the place: cost, location and music venues in Toronto. [online] Available at:[Accessed 15 Dec. 2016].

Monts, C. (2013). Converse Rehearsal Space., [online] p.1. Available at: [Accessed 9 Dec. 2016].

RIBA. (2013).Guide to localism opportunities for architects- part two: getting community engagement right. London: Royal Institute of British Architects.

Wang, J, Oakes, T, & Yang, Y. (2016). Making cultural cities in Asia mobility, assemblage, and the politics of aspirational urbanism. New York: Routledge.

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