Wells Cathedral School held an invited design competition in 2007. Our design for a strikingly modern building was chosen – a brave move in a listed landscape. The brief was then expanded to include a new sports pavilion, maintenance building and access road with associated landscaping.
Cedars Hall, the new music facility, is used for the teaching, learning and performance of music. The building lies on the historically significant axis of Wells Cathedral’s Chapter House, and both function as gathering spaces for the local community.
Acoustic requirements dictated the volume of the recital hall and we sought to minimise the impact on the listed landscape and maintain views to the Cathedral by using the sectional device of partially burying the performance space and employing a set-back clerestory at roof level. The hall has a singularity of elevational treatment though the use of alternating unjointed weathering steel and glazed panels of 5.5m high by 2m wide.
A gently sloping curved path to the entrance follows the line of the historic Liberty wall. The building contains a technically excellent recital hall and interconnected spaces for teaching, rehearsing, performing and recording. These were designed in close collaboration with acoustic consultants in particular, but also structural and environmental engineers and landscape architects.
The hall can accommodate an audience of over 400 and is recessed into the surrounding garden, which is visible through large windows. Natural light fills the space during the day and the building becomes a lantern in the landscape during the evenings. The stage, seating and acoustic wall panels within the hall can be adapted for various layouts with differing acoustic qualities suitable for a range of music styles and audience configurations.
Recital hall double glazed external windows were tested at speeds of 99mph to withstand cricket ball impact. The recital hall soffit is constructed from structural beech laminated veneer lumber (LVL). Schroeder quadratic residue diffusion is used in the low level timber lining to the recital hall space to diffuse sound.
There is a generous top lit Foyer built against the curve of the listed wall that doubles up as a Brass Section rehearsal space. On the upper floor there are dedicated spaces for Woodwind and Percussion, each with glazed observation rooms for the specifics of teaching music. Extensive Value Engineering was undertaken and a protracted tendering process ensured that maximum value was achieved.
An enabling works project saw the completion of a new sports pavilion and maintenance facility in 2015, which form a family of buildings of similar materials around the grounds.