The £2.5 million timber-clad building sits near 16th-century buildings at the private school in Somerset
Levitt Bernstein has completed King’s Bruton’s new music facility in time for the school’s 500th anniversary. The building is located on the site of a former open-air swimming pool adjacent to the river Brue, and the facilities include a recital hall, peripatetic rooms, practice rooms, music classrooms, a rock and percussion room, a recording studio and offices.
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The design responds to its context – a conservation area in a 16th-century estate – using a sensitive material palette and remaining predominantly single-storey in form.
The site is enclosed on three sides by listed stone walls, which have been protected to create and define a new landscape, as well as linking the new building to the rest of the school. A new two-storey tower marks the entrance to the facility and a riverside walkway strengthens the relationship between the school and river. The new wall and tower aim to provide a contemporary aesthetic referencing the solid character of the existing stone walls.
The timber cladding system wraps around the building in an arrangement of vertical battens on the elevation facing the courtyard. The sedum roof helps to insulate the practice rooms from the noise of rain.
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A carefully crafted ‘box of tricks’, the design concept has been driven from the outset by the constrained but inspiring site and an ambitious brief. Situated within a rich landscape of historic structures alongside the river Brue, the setting demanded an architecturally sympathetic response, while delivering the complex technical and acoustic requirements of teaching, practice and performance space.
Inspired by the local architectural language of towers, follies and walls, the building is anchored by a contemporary entrance tower. Thick masonry walls re-establish the third and fourth sides of the original 16th-century school yard – a befitting gesture to mark the school’s quincentenary. The architectural form works hard to embed itself sympathetically within the historic context, respecting key views into and from the site. Largely single-storey, the sedum roof of the teaching area is visible from elevated properties and across the river, while the double-height recital hall has been positioned to minimise the impact on the surroundings.
Internally, the plan delivers multifunctional space for both school and lettings use. The large classroom can be opened up to the entrance lobby to create an enlarged foyer/gathering space for concerts, through the use of an innovative, L-shaped moveable wall. A professional specification recording suite and new recital hall richly enhance teaching facilities that the previous accommodation was unable able to offer. Organised around a rock room clad in fine timber battens, box-in-box practice rooms are afforded views of the surrounding walls and landscape and this connection to the landscape is celebrated throughout the building.
The school has been an engaged and enthusiastic client and a privilege to work with – it has been fantastic to see the building well used and looked after from day one.
Jamie Potter, project architect, Levitt Bernstein
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Since the idea of a new music school for King’s Bruton was first discussed in 2014, I hoped the building would transform both our music facilities and an unappealing brownfield site at the centre of our historic campus. The final building is even better than I hoped for – the design, construction quality, use of light and space, as well as the sound and acoustic engineering are all of the highest quality.
Ian Wilmshurst, headmaster, King’s Bruton
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Start on site July 2017
Completion November 2018
Gross internal floor area 752m²
Gross (internal + external) floor area 1,001m²
Form of contract Traditional
Construction cost £2.45 million
Construction cost per m² £3,258
Architect Levitt Bernstein
Client King’s Bruton
Structural engineer Civic Engineers
M&E consultant QODA Consulting
Theatre consultant Theatretech
Landscape consultant Levitt Bernstein
Acoustic consultant Applied Acoustic Design
Approved building inspector Oculus
Main contractor A.Hammond & Sons
CAD software used Revit
Annnual CO₂ emissions 12.8kg/m²