Wells Cathedral School, founded in AD909, is renowned for music and is one of just five in the country to offer specialist musical education to school children. Over the years it has grown; its 700 pupils learn and board in various historic stone buildings around the precincts of Wells Cathedral and use the cathedral itself as a music venue for performances and recitals. While this was perfect for traditional performance, the school lacked modern performance teaching and rehearsal spaces, ones that would accommodate recording and data, and allow new forms of music to be accessible to students.
All these facilities are now provided in an elegant and award-winning new building, Cedars Hall, designed by Eric Parry Architects. There are spaces for the teaching, learning, practice and recording of music, designed to professional standards, together with a magnificent hall for recitals and performance.
The new building provides much needed flexibility and a choice of performance spaces. It is a new focal point both for the school and the local community and with its generous foyer and bar can accommodate an audience of 400.
Cedars Hall has been carefully integrated into its historic setting, the listed landscape of Cedars, a large Grade II listed Georgian mansion which is the administrative centre of the school. The site was constrained in every orientation, slotted in between mature cedar trees, flanking a historic curved wall, the Liberty Wall, and adjacent to the school cricket pitch.
The volume/proportions of the recital hall were determined by acoustic requirements. To minimise the visual impact of its relatively large volume on the listed landscape, and to allow views across the grounds to the cricket pitch, it has been partially sunk into the ground and its roof is set back at clerestory level. Light floods in from a series of full height glazed panels set between massive Cor-Ten weathering steel panels. Its interior is designed to world-class acoustic standards, achieved by use of timber elements, including diffusing oak panels, adjustable timber panels, and a double-curved timber roof.
Other facilities are housed in an adjacent, slightly lower structure which wraps around the recital hall and is clad with vertical Siberian larch boards, matching the cricket pavilion and maintenance block nearby, also designed for the school by Eric Parry Architects.
Although the first purpose of the new building was always music, it is now a popular venue for many activities in the school and community including toddler groups, debates, dinners, conferences and art exhibitions.