Kent College Canterbury is an independent school dating from 1885. It has undergone significant development in its history and in 2016 a second school was opened in Dubai. There is also a presence in Hong Kong, currently operating online.
A few years ago the decision was taken to build a major new hall at the college’s Whitstable Road site. This would serve as a venue for assemblies and worship, along with concerts and drama. Adrian James Acoustics was appointed in 2016 to provide theatre consultancy and acoustic design. Working with architects HazleMcCormackYoung, AJA assisted in developing the brief for the hall in consultation with senior school staff. The auditorium was required to be a truly multi-purpose space, capable of providing excellent acoustics and a concert platform stage for regular whole-school assemblies and music performances, but also converting to a proscenium theatre for drama performance. Key to the hall’s flexibility was the stage engineering design. The stage can transform from an open concert platform to a fully masked proscenium stage for drama, with a seating capacity adjustable between 389 and 600.
Daylight within the hall was a key requirement for assembly use. With high-level technical areas therefore fully on show, we worked closely with the architects and structural engineers CTP to form clean and uncluttered technical galleries with a high standard of finish. This included the integration of lighting bridges and over-stage suspension beams into the primary roof trusses. The auditorium is ventilated naturally via an underground labyrinth with high-level fan-assisted exhaust towers at the roof apex. We worked closely with M&E engineers BSP to ensure minimal external noise break-in through the ventilation intakes and outlets.
Our integrated approach to theatre and acoustic design allowed for the development of an efficient and streamlined design. We integrated orchestral platform downlighting into the over-stage acoustic reflectors deployed for music and assembly use. The reflectors themselves were a frameless design using pre-formed curved plywood to minimise both physical weight and visual bulk. Rotating and sliding wing panels form the sides of an acoustically reflective orchestra shell for music use and acoustically absorbent black masking legs for drama use. A novel trapezoid curtain deploys to control light spill above the proscenium for drama use and disappears almost completely to minimise acoustic absorption and maximise reverberation time for musical uses.
In April 2018 a ceremony of groundbreaking took place, attended by local dignitaries. Less than 18 months later, the hall was ready for commissioning, and a service of dedication was held. AJA’s Principal Acoustics and Theatre Consultant Ian Rees was present at this auspicious event.
The Great Hall is now fully operational, and in October 2019 acted as the venue for two concerts in the Canterbury Festival. Despite interruptions due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the relationship with the Festival continues. It is one of the many benefits which the hall offers to the city as well as to the school itself.
Client : Kent College Canterbury
Architects : HazleMcCormackYoung LLP
Structural engineers: CTP
M&E engineers: Brinson Staniland Partnership
Contractor: WW Martin
Contract value : £6.5 million