The Britten Pears Archive, Stanton Williams’ new passive archivebuilding for the Britten–Pears Foundation (BPF), houses the extensivecollection of music manuscripts, letters, photographs and recordingsof the composer Benjamin Britten and tenor Peter Pears. Originallyassembled by Britten and Pears as a working library of their owncollections of books, manuscripts and printed scores and recordings,the archive has now grown into one of the country’s most importantcentres for music research and scholarship.
In 2005 the collection wasofficially given Designated status in recognition of its significance.The archive building complements the site of The Red House inAldeburgh, Suffolk, the Grade II listed former home of Britten and hispartner Pears and has been completed in time for Britten’s Centenarycelebrations at the Aldeburgh music festival in June 2013.Stanton Williams’ design roots the building firmly in its context andis appropriate to the listed house and garden, providing optimumenvironmental conditions for preservation of the significant collectionthrough pioneering low-energy means, achieving a passive archiveenvironment.The building is expressed as two interlocking forms, reflecting theinternal functions.
The concept is that of an ‘egg in a box’: thick, wellinsulated walls enclose the main storage room, surrounded by a bufferspace which helps moderate the temperature and relative humiditybetween the outside environment and the material within.The volume to the north contains the staff offices, support spacesand a study room, with generous windows on the west and northfaçades allowing views out to The Red House gardens, giving a senseof connection with the site.
The southern volume houses the archivecollection, raised from the ground to protect it from flood risk. Thisfunctional and efficient concept is based on a tradition of buildingtreasure houses, granary stores and shrines and gives form to the‘precious’ nature of the collection.The outer building walls are constructed entirely from solid brick.The bricks connect the building visually with the rest of the site andprovides thermal mass to help moderate the conditions within thebuilding.
This is essential for passive control ensuring low-energy andhigh environmental standards for the building.A green sedum roof on staff areas helps blend the building with thelandscape, encouraging biodiversity.Internally, the materials are limited to fairfaced concrete soffits andcolumns (providing thermal mass and cooling) and timber wall linings,floors and windows to provide warmth and texture.The new archive brings together this internationally importantcollection in one central place for the first time in the very placewhere Britten created his music, improving staff workspace, accessand security.Re-housing the archive created opportunities to free up space withinthe existing buildings on the site, most importantly, the compositionstudio in which Britten worked from 1958 to 1970, and wheremasterpieces such as War Requiem were written, has been re-createdfor visitors to experience.Stanton Williams and engineers Max Fordham have worked closelywith the Foundation to develop a low carbon, primarily passiveenvironmental control approach throughout the building which meetsthe needs of the collection.
The building is conceived as an `egg-in-abox’with the archive strongrooms cocooned by a buffer space whichprotects it from extreme temperatures and stabilises the surroundingenvironment.The massive air-tight construction of the strongrooms provide a verystable environment which fluctuates slowly from a winter minimumto a summer maximum without the need for air-conditioning.Humidity levels are kept stable by a ‘conservation heating’ strategy,which introduces small and controlled amounts of heat to regulateconditions.
The strongroom is situated on an elevated plinth due tothe risk of flood.A brief summary of the key environmental features of the project:— The staff and visitor areas of the building are naturally ventilatedvia opening windows and rooflights. The building’s intrinsic thermalmass and exposed concrete soffits provide the facility for ‘freecooling’ by using the natural ventilation in combination with nighttime ventilation.— The well sealed and well insulated construction to allows for a lowenergy, passively controlled environment.— There is a buffer space around the paper and art strong room,passively moderating the temperature and relative humiditybetween the internal and external environment.
This ‘egg in thebox’ idea is functional, efficient and protects the strong room‘inner box’ from the weather.— A sophisticated KNX integrated controls system is being installed toenable occupant control of heating and lighting to different areasof the building.— A green roof above the staff accommodation enhances on-sitebiodiversity.— The building’s environmental performance is being assessed underthe environmental rating system ‘BREEAM’ and is on target toachieve the rating BREEAM ‘Excellent’ upon completion.Key ValuesConstruction value: £2.0 millionKey datesCompletion Date: June 2013Date of Occupation: June 2013Construction phase: Nov 2011 – June 2013Building DetailsPostal Address: Golf Lane, Aldeburgh, IP15 5PZGross Internal Area: 520m2Project TeamClient: Britten-Pears FoundationArchitect: Stanton WilliamsBuilding Services Engineer: Max FordhamCivil and Structural Engineer: Barton EngineersProject Manager: David LangdonMain Contractor: R G Carter LtdCost Consultant: Davis LangdonArboriculturalist: Ian Keen LtdPhotographyHufton & CrowManufacturers and SuppliersBricks – Dunton Brothers, MichelmershRooflights – SurespanVeneered Panelling – GraefeRoller racking – RacklineGreenroof – BauderExternal louvered doors – LevoluxInternal glazed doors – Optima.