Recording studio

A recording studio arrives at Carmel after a call regarding the door design. | Local news


It’s an exciting proposition for Carmel: a world-class recording studio in a historic building, with the potential to attract musicians from around the world to record and live-stream everything from classical music to contemporary works. Architect Robert Carver called it an “Abbey Road-level studio”, in reference to the famous creative home of the Beatles and dozens of other music titans, when addressing City Council of Carmel on January 4.

Carver’s client, Sean Moriarty, envisions that the Conservatory, as he calls it, will be a resource for the Bach Festival, Monterey Symphony, Monterey Jazz Festival and Philip Glass’s Days and Night Festival. Glass himself sent an email of support to the city on Oct. 28 ahead of the planning committee’s vote. “Giving the community a space to make recorded music is a gift,” Glass wrote. “A caliber recording studio would be a great resource for the city.

Some Carmelites were not happy that the gift was accompanied by a modification to the facade of what has been known for decades as the China Art Building on Dolores Street, between 7th Avenue and Ocean Avenue. A planned noise-canceling double-door system made of glass, necessary to prevent sound from escaping or entering, was deemed by some residents to be unsuitable for the 1930 Renaissance-style building. On November 10, a vote of approval by the Planning Commission failed to tie 2-2, with one commissioner absent. A second vote was successful, 3-1 to approve, but only if the doors were moved inside. Carver appealed to city council.

On January 4, Carver and Moriarty discussed why moving the doors inside would shrink the Great Main Hall, where they envision an orchestra that can play. Monterey Symphony executive director Nicola Reilly told the board this would require reducing the number of musicians and reducing the creative integrity of the music. Moriarty also said that pushing the doors inside would create an oddly shaped room that would negatively impact the sound quality. He and Carver showed how, since the Planning Commission voted, they had changed the design by pushing the six-foot doors into the hallway outside the building.

Moriarty argued that he has been giving new life to an empty building for over 10 years. “I was joking that I am a unicorn who comes to town and improves it 20 times more” than anyone who could improve it except for retail or other uses, he told the council. The board voted 5-0 to grant the appeal and approve the studio.