Millfield School, a prestigious private school in Somerset, required a new building to house both its music classes and an auditorium for performances. With the client requiring the two areas to be discrete within one structure, we applied acoustic separation techniques at the structural engineering consultancy stage to achieve the desired result.
Stringent acoustic requirements and a central campus location made this a particularly challenging project. The two key elements that governed the form of the structure were classroom size requirements and acoustic performance across the three-storey building. With the building needing to be split between the auditorium and the music school for acoustic separation purposes and the form of the two sections also being very different, we needed to devise different structural solutions for each.
The auditorium comprises a timber glulam frame supporting the roof and spanning up to 20 metres, which creates a soft harmonic environment for musical performances. There are also glazed elevations, with stability provided by a feature curved wall and a braced bay adjacent to the music school.
By contrast, the music school’s internal walls form a natural rigid cellular structure with a solid wall and floor construction of masonry partition walls and concrete floor slabs. To reduce noise break-out into adjacent rooms, the windows project from the elevations and double thickness plasterboard dry lining has been finely detailed and sealed at all junctions. Due to their proximity to the auditorium, floating floors were also specified for the main percussion and drum rehearsal rooms.
Whereas the majority of classrooms and rehearsal rooms in the music school are naturally ventilated, the auditorium is cooled by a displacement air system that is piped underground. Close co-operation was required between the architect, M & E, acoustic and structural consultant teams to achieve the necessary air flow through the main performance space.
Our ability to work collaboratively also helped us to successfully overcome other challenges on the project presented by both the acoustic requirements for adjustable, perforated, curved ply timber acoustic deflection and the heavy retractable draping system to the rear of the auditorium.
The end result is an impressive building, containing a music performance concert hall with the capacity to seat over 300 people, rehearsal rooms, 25 practice rooms, recording studios and a specialist percussion room – offering the students of Millfield School first-rate facilities in which to develop their musical talents.