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Hoddinott Hall

Hoddinott Hall

Special Award: Best Use of Panel Products 2009

Location: Cardiff Bay
Client/owner: BBC Wales
Architect: Capita Architecture
Structural Engineer: URS Corporation Ltd
Main Contractor/Builder: Sir Robert McAlpine Construction
Joinery Company: Houston Cox Interiors
Wood Species: American White Oak, European Beech

“If the Hoddinott Hall is ‘only’ a recording studio, it must be the grandest and most beautiful one in Britain.”

Richard Morrison, The Times.

A playground in finest oak, The Times, 20 Jan 2009

The UK media has described the BBC National Orchestra of Wales’ new home in Cardiff Bay as one of the most impressive new auditoria to be built in the UK. Named after the late Welsh composer Alun Hoddinott, the venue provides the Orchestra with a rehearsal, recording and performance space, accommodating an orchestra of 110, a chorus of 130 and audience of 350.

Internally Hoddinott Hall is finished in Oak and Beech timber joinery elements that helped achieve the highest acoustic criteria. At low level the walls are clad in solid Oak battens of various sizes (20, 40 and 60mm) laid vertically at varying centres secret fixed to Oak veneered MDF board. Acoustic parameters were set for both the density of the material and the spacing of the battens on the panelling (designed to diffuse sound waves and prevent echo); 2 spacing types were used. Panelling (600mm wide for ease of installation) was prefabricated in the Piper Cox Joinery workshop in Kent and installed by their Cardiff-based sister company Houston Cox. To standardise fabrication, whilst avoiding the appearance of repetition, 2 different panels were designed for each spacing type. On site all panels were face fixed to the concrete walls with battens covering the fixings. One innovation was the creation of hollow 60mm battens through which power conduits were routed to sockets within the skirting, light switches and emergency call points. The location of power sockets was dependent on the panel type used; careful coordination of the panel setting out and the electrical requirements was critical to the success of the prefabrication and installation. In consultation with Piper Cox Joinery, American White Oak was specified for its relative availability, consistent grain quality and low wastage.

Another key acoustic feature is the curved ‘cue-ball’ shelf located either side of the orchestra above the panelling. This diffuses sound and prevents echo; its prominence emphasised by using a different timber. Steamed Beech was chosen for its warmer, darker colour as television broadcasting, and performance lighting levels have the potential to ‘white-wash’ a space. For ease of fabrication the shelf frontage was prefabricated from curved MDF fixed to a timber former and veneered. Units were fabricated in lengths of 2.4m and fixed to an in-situ steel frame. A perfect colour match between panels would have been impossible to achieve; a shadow gap was used to define each panel following the line of the panel joints of the electrical containment housing below. To create a truly multi-functional space, a means of varying acoustic performance is critical. A key element of this is the acoustic ceiling reflector array made of Steamed Beech veneer, prefabricated using a similar method to that described above.