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The Colyer-Fergusson Building

The Colyer-Fergusson Building

Commercial & Public Access Winner 2013

Project Title: The Colyer-Fergusson Building
Location: Canterbury, Kent
Wood Species and Products Used: Canadian Douglas fir, Romanian engineered oak flooring
Building client/owner: University of Kent
Architect: Tim Ronalds Architects
Structural Engineer:  Price & Myers
Main Contractor/Builder: R Durtnell & Sons
Joinery Company: Adrol Ltd
Wood Supplier: Decor Solutions, Essex
Other services: Alsford Timber, The Natural Wood Floor Co

The Colyer-Fergusson Building provides facilities for the University of Kent’s thriving extra-curricular music programme, which involves students, staff and members of the community in music making of all kinds. The building contains a concert hall large enough for a full orchestra, choir and audience of 350, a generous foyer, practice rooms, offices, and storage and technical spaces.

The interior of the building is finished in natural timber; the outside in flint-faced blocks and bronze powder-coated windows.

Tim Ronalds Architects decided at the outset that timber would be used throughout the public spaces to provide the warmth and acoustic qualities conducive to music. Douglas Fir was chosen for its colour and vitality, and is used for wall and ceiling finishes, doors, joinery, and handrails, everything except flooring where the hardness of Oak is needed.

The aspiration for the Colyer-Fergusson Hall was to create the finest concert hall of its size in Kent. The walls and ceiling are completely lined in Douglas Fir Plywood, supported on a steel frame, and braced with solid Douglas Fir rails which stiffen the linings to avoid any unwanted resonance at musical frequencies, and provide acoustic diffusion. The acoustics can be modulated to suit music-making of all kinds with curtains that transform the interior into a soft, fabric-lined space, and retract behind the timber wall linings when not in use.

The design provides an unusual degree of flexibility for a hall with world-class acoustics. Two banks of retractable seating allow the space to be configured with raked seating in various arrangements or as a flat-floored space. The retractable seating is finished with Douglas Fir fascias, continuing the material and rhythm of the hall lining panels.

The foyer, which also provides space for impromptu performance, is lined with the same Douglas Fir Plywood, and also employs curtains, pistachio green which contrasts beautifully with the Douglas Fir to modulate the acoustics.

The Main Contractor R Durtnell & Son and carpentry subcontractor Adrol worked with great skill and care to select the timber and construct the interior to a very high standard.

The building has already been shortlisted for an RIBA award. People love the warmth, the colour, and variety in the grain of the timber. Our hope is that it will stand up to the rigours of life in a busy music building, and age beautifully.

The first public concert in the new building was of these was performed by the Brodsky Quartet, and following the performance, the Brodsky’s Daniel Rowland wrote to say: “Having performed at the Colyer-Fergusson Hall yesterday, I just want to tell you what a stunning, world class hall it is! I haven’t enjoyed playing anywhere as much for a long time. The feeling on stage is close to perfect, with that beautiful warm wood all around. The acoustics are just fantastic: one can hear a pin drop and comfortably explore the extremes of dynamics. The University of Kent should be very proud.”