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Levitt Bernstein completes music centre for King’s Bruton school


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.

Kings bruton 05

Kings bruton 05

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. 

Kings bruton 08

Kings bruton 08

Architect’s view

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

03 kings bruton ground floor plan

03 kings bruton ground floor plan

Ground floor plan

Client’s view

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

06 kings bruton section through recital hall

06 kings bruton section through recital hall

Section through recital hall

Project data

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


Readers' comments (3)

  • There's surely something of a disconnect between the images and the architect's view - does the new building's quite extensive amount of richly colored timber cladding really fit with the notion of careful design that sympathizes with the architectural context? It might be assumed that the timber will tone down - even perhaps to a silver-grey - but is this the intention?.
    Of course It would be unreasonable to expect the new work to be entirely encased in the local stone, but does this new building, as illustrated, really sit comfortably with its surroundings?
    Quite separately, the future well being of this area, alongside the River Brue, is dependent on the effectiveness of the flood control dam just upstream to the east of Bruton (clearly seen from the adjoining Great Western main line).
    This flood storage reservoir was only built in the early 1980s, designed to cope with a 1 in 100 year flood, but had to be 'beefed up' in 2008 by - inter alia - raising the top of the dam and spillway crest by no less than 2m.
    Good luck for the future, Bruton.

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  • I wonder if any consideration was given by the designers or clients as to how this timber building will look, and what a maintenance nightmare it will become in a few years time?
    Thought not! For had any such issues been pondered it is likely the structure would never have got off the ground.
    I've said it before; UK designers should not involve themselves in timber buildings.

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  • Literally the whole of Bruton is built in the local stone... not sure I understand the logic here although it is clearly well executed

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