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RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects) Award 2001

Shrewsbury School Music School & Auditorium

Shrewsbury School Music School — Assessors’ report

Description: The auditorium and music school is located on a high site above the River Severn within the grounds of Shrewsbury School and is surrounded by numerous listed buildings. The architects’ brief was to create a new music school with practice rooms, teaching rooms, and a large performance space suitable for a full orchestra, (or a small ensemble with an audience of two hundred). In addition, specialist music facilities for rock, percussion, keyboards, recording and IT were also to be accommodated. The solution was one large 3-storey volume separated from surrounding small single-storey spaces by a top-lit central corridor. A simple elliptical envelope wraps around these to create splayed walls for the numerous perimeter practice and teaching rooms. Each of these have floor-to-ceiling windows and views into the school grounds. The roof incorporates a material new to the UK, Dickholz (literally thick wood) a laminated timber, which has been described as ‘a synthesis of acoustics, structural engineering and aesthetics’. External walls are allowed to breathe, using a timber frame insulated with re-cycled newsprint and clad with red cedar. The building is passively ventilated from a cool labyrinth in the undercroft via vents in the roof. In winter all vents can be closed so that heat is recycled.

The judges said: ‘The new facility bridges an embankment between the upper and lower commons of the school and is therefore in a prominent position within a very sensitive context. By setting the building into its sloping site, the architects have facilitated passive means of ventilation by drawing cool air from an undercroft and exhausting it through vents with sound attenuators in the auditorium roof. Combined with a very thermally efficient external envelope, and the extensive use of sustainable natural materials, the building has a minimum impact on the environment.

‘Delivered within a budget considerably lower than buildings with similarly high acoustic specifications, this is an excellent new teaching facility for Shrewsbury school and a valuable addition to the cultural life of Shrewsbury itself.’

Nominated for the RIBA Journal Sustainability Award