A new music department to celebrate the school’s quincentenary.
King’s School in Bruton, Somerset, is one of the oldest educational campuses in the country, with a clutch of Grade I and II listed buildings on a 16th Century estate. To mark the 500th anniversary, the Board of Governors launched an architectural competition to design a new music department. The brief was to create a high quality building offering outstanding music facilities for both the school and wider community, that would also accommodate growing numbers of pupils.
We saw an opportunity with a disused swimming pool and fives court; transforming this tricky corner site with one building housing all the school’s musical facilities, including teaching and rehearsal space, a recital hall and industry-specification recording suite.
Our design was selected as the winner in 2016, and following our appointment, we worked closely with the Bursar, Louis Tuson; Headmaster, Ian Wilmshurst; and Director of Music, David Gorodi, to make our plans a reality.
Sitting in the heart of the historic estate, the design is inspired by, and carefully responds to, this sensitive context. Surrounded by listed stone walls and the River Brue, the new building completes the fourth side of an underused courtyard to create a defined square. This has been re-landscaped and now links the adjacent buildings and encourages activity where there was previously very little. The entrance is marked by a new landmark tower, inspired by the nearby Headmaster’s folly, local church spire and original School House tower.
Predominantly single-storey, the form of the building responds to key views into and from the courtyard, maintaining an important connection between this historic heart of the school and wider context. An intimate, new riverside walkway also provides a respectful relationship between the music building and listed river wall.
The material palette embodies the key architectural concept of contrasts; between old and new, and hard and soft. The new, thick masonry walls and tower on the courtyard side provide a modern, complementary aesthetic that references the solid character of the existing stone walls without trying to compete with them. In contrast, soft, natural timber cladding envelops the building to the rear riverside walkway, culminating in a rhythmic arrangement of vertical batons around the recital hall. A sedum roof insulates practice rooms from noise, attenuates rainfall and softens its appearance when viewed from the town above, embedding the new building in its unique setting.