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Guy Hollaway reveals contest-winning Benenden School hall

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Guy Hollaway Architects has revealed its competition-winning scheme for a new concert hall at Grade II*-listed Benenden School near Cranbrook in Kent

The London and Hythe-based practice defeated an undisclosed shortlist of rival firms to win an invited contest for the new building at the prestigious independent girls’ boarding school one year ago.

The project, planned to complete in 2019 or 2020, will deliver a new combined concert hall and school hall and music department at the school which was founded in 1923 and includes Princess Anne and the actor Rachel Weisz among its former students.

Guy Hollaway’s proposals for the scheme – featuring a 750-seat concert hall, 150-seat recital hall, digital media suites and extensive landscaping – were presented to parents last weekend (22 April).

According to a statement from the practice: ‘Each room has been designed to perfectly respond to its anticipated use, be it percussion, choral or solo practice. A new double height atrium space benefitting from framed views to the rose garden will create links between the hall, music school, west wing, chapel and main school.’

The statement continued: ‘Built in 1939 for a school of over 200 pupils, the School Hall has now been outgrown. Benenden needs a new hall fit for today’s school and for the future, one that can fit 550 girls plus staff in comfort and retain its place at the heart of their community, yet have the capacity to accommodate additional audience members on occasion.

‘The new school hall will accommodate up to 750 seated audience members and will provide an exceptional performance space for the school and visiting orchestras, whilst the attached school of music will support and promote the arts to the student body and wider community. We are seeking not only to increase the capacity of the hall, but to endow the building with the latest technology, lighting and sound management systems to create a world class centre of music, performance and worship.

‘Complementing the school hall will be a new music hall facility worthy of the incredible musical talent at Benenden, helping the School’s musical achievements continue to go from strength to strength. The music hall houses the recital hall with a state-of-the-art recording facility and the recital hall opens itself up to the courtyard by the use of side glazing. The school will also house a number of practice, rehearsal, percussion and song rooms, all of which propose to make Benenden School an advantageous music school.’

The commission comes five years after Hopkins Architects completed a new 2,800m² science centre for the school which occupies a Grade II*-listed former mansion set in 100 hectares of forest.

Guy Hollaway’s scheme is expected to be submitted for planning in the next six months.

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