Treading the boards
Beaudesert Park School opens new performing arts centre designed by MEB Design Ltd
Posted by Stephanie Broad | August 03, 2015 | Facilities & buildings
Beaudesert Park School, independent schools, school buildings, performing arts, music department, MEB Design Ltd

Beaudesert Park School is set within the grounds of a Listed House (now a school) within the Cotswolds, on the edge of Minchinhampton Common. A new performing arts building from MEB Design Ltd provides a flexible hall for activities from assemblies to performances, with the ability to divide the space to provide two acoustically separated spaces.

Mobile retractable seating allows the hall to be configured into different layouts dependent on activity. The entrance foyer also functions as a flexible exhibition and performance space, and folding walls open out to provide a free-flowing arrangement with the hall. Mirrors on the folding walls also mean that the space can be used as a dance studio. 

Back of house facilities include a scene dock and green room located adjacent to the hall. The first floor provides access to the hall balcony – technical and viewing - which has a removable section to allow the division of the hall into two spaces. A curved balcony over the foyer widens to provide a viewing area into the space below and also access out onto the external balcony built into the glulam timber trellis “green wall” and with views out across the common. To the south, a first floor roof terrace provides a breakout space surrounded by tree canopies for intervals during performances. A part-subterranean basement makes use of the natural contours across the site to provide a music department including a teaching/ensemble room and six modular acoustic practice pods. 

The school’s newsletter says: “The music school has moved into the performing arts centre and the children and staff are much enjoying their new music pods and extra space. Our visiting piano tuner, who visits many independent schools nationwide, said that, in his opinion, Beaudesert’s new facilities were one of the best he had seen in a prep school and, in particular, he was very impressed with the soundproofing of the pods.” 

The project set out to create a contemporary building, which took cues from the local palette of materials – existing buildings and the natural landscape. Externally, the building is mostly clad with Cotswold stone, built to a dry stonewall aesthetic, a construction synonymous with the area and sourced from a local quarry. An offset trellis “green wall” wraps around two elevations of the building providing a safe and sheltered circulation route around the building to the Music School external entrance and the lower car park. Natural cedar vertical louvres to the glazed elevation are staggered to reflect the continuous treeline around the site, and have also been likened to a scale of musical notes, fitting for the building.

Two elevations of the building also have alternating oak boarding with strips of glazing, which provide a more “robust” rhythm. The intention is that the building has different appearances to different elevations, particularly as the main vehicle route in to the school (completely re-arranged to fit the building in) now circumnavigates this new building, so it has become a major statement and centrepiece for the school. The location and planning process was also particularly sensitive and involved a great deal of preparation, understanding and consultation. Once it was complete, the school was able to use the facility straight away.

Beaudesert’s website states: “At 3pm we shook hands with the builders, thanked them for all their hard work and bade them farewell after 18 months of construction.  At 3.05pm we started setting up for our first concert… With a variety of performances from flute group to brass bands, recorders to strings, some Year 8 soloists, choirs and the Beaudesert orchestra it was a fitting way to christen the new hall, which was packed with parents and children.  The acoustics proved their worth and it was the first concert where everyone could see the performers either from the tiered seating or from the gallery.”

Photo Credits to: MEB Design Ltd, Beaudesert Park School and Chris Honeywell.