Britten-Pears Archive
by Stanton Williams

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Music manuscripts and recordings of the late British composer Benjamin Britten are held within a temperature-controlled concrete chamber at this archive building in Suffolk, England by architecture firm Stanton Williams (+ slideshow).

Britten-Pears Archive by Stanton Williams

The Britten-Pears Archive is located in the grounds of the house formerly shared by Britten and tenor Peter Pears - the composer's personal and professional partner - and it offers a comprehensive archive of the music, photographs and letters of both musicians.

Britten-Pears Archive by Stanton Williams

Stanton Williams developed the structure using the concept of "an egg in a box". The archive is housed within a highly-insulated concrete enclosure, while a red-brick facade encases this volume along with the other rooms of the building.

Britten-Pears Archive by Stanton Williams

This arrangement effectively creates an intermediate space between the archive and the outside environment, making it easy to moderate the temperature and relative humidity. The archive is also raised off the ground to prevent the risk of flooding.

Britten-Pears Archive by Stanton Williams

Staff offices, support spaces and a study room are positioned inside the southern wing of the building and feature exposed concrete ceilings and a variety of wooden surfaces.

Britten-Pears Archive by Stanton Williams

Brick piers surround two of the facades to create nine floor-to-ceiling windows, giving staff views out across the gardens.

Britten-Pears Archive by Stanton Williams

Architect Alan Stanton said: "The new building will play an important part in preserving Britten's legacy and serve as a research centre for future generations of musicians and music lovers."

Britten-Pears Archive by Stanton Williams

Stanton Williams won the 2012 RIBA Stirling Prize for its botanic laboratory at Cambridge University. Dezeen interviewed Alan Stanton at the award ceremony, when he explained that "the social challenge of designing a laboratory is almost as demanding as the technical challenge".

Britten-Pears Archive by Stanton Williams

Other recent projects by Stanton Williams include facilities for London's amateur football leagues and a new campus for art and design college Central Saint Martins. See more architecture by Stanton Williams.

Britten-Pears Archive by Stanton Williams

See more archives on Dezeen, including an earth-coloured concrete building for EDF Energy.

Britten-Pears Archive by Stanton Williams

Photography is by Hufton + Crow.

Britten-Pears Archive by Stanton Williams

Here's a project description from Stanton Williams:


Britten-Pears Archive

The Britten Pears Archive, Stanton Williams' new passive archive building for the Britten–Pears Foundation (BPF), houses the extensive collection of music manuscripts, letters, photographs and recordings of the composer Benjamin Britten and tenor Peter Pears. Originally assembled by Britten and Pears as a working library of their own collections of books, manuscripts and printed scores and recordings, the archive has now grown into one of the country's most important centres for music research and scholarship. In 2005 the collection was officially given Designated status in recognition of its significance.

Britten-Pears Archive by Stanton Williams

The archive building complements the site of The Red House in Aldeburgh, Suffolk, the Grade II listed former home of Britten and his partner Pears and has been completed in time for Britten's Centenary celebrations at the Aldeburgh music festival in June 2013.

Britten-Pears Archive by Stanton Williams

Stanton Williams' design roots the building firmly in its context and is appropriate to the listed house and garden, providing optimum environmental conditions for preservation of the significant collection through pioneering low-energy means, achieving a passive archive environment.

Britten-Pears Archive by Stanton Williams

The building is expressed as two interlocking forms, reflecting the internal functions. The concept is that of an 'egg in a box': thick, well insulated walls enclose the main storage room, surrounded by a buffer space which helps moderate the temperature and relative humidity between the outside environment and the material within.

Britten-Pears Archive by Stanton Williams

The volume to the north contains the staff offices, support spaces and a study room, with generous windows on the west and north façades allowing views out to The Red House gardens, giving a sense of connection with the site. The southern volume houses the archive collection, raised from the ground to protect it from flood risk. This functional and efficient concept is based on a tradition of building treasure houses, granary stores and shrines and gives form to the 'precious' nature of the collection.

Britten-Pears Archive by Stanton Williams

The outer building walls are constructed entirely from solid brick. The bricks connect the building visually with the rest of the site and provides thermal mass to help moderate the conditions within the building. This is essential for passive control ensuring low-energy and high environmental standards for the building.

Britten-Pears Archive by Stanton Williams

A green sedum roof on staff areas helps blend the building with the landscape, encouraging biodiversity.

Britten-Pears Archive by Stanton Williams

Internally, the materials are limited to fairfaced concrete soffits and columns (providing thermal mass and cooling) and timber wall linings, floors and windows to provide warmth and texture.

Britten-Pears Archive by Stanton Williams

The new archive brings together this internationally important collection in one central place for the first time in the very place where Britten created his music, improving staff workspace, access and security.

Britten-Pears Archive by Stanton Williams
Site plan - click for larger image

Re-housing the archive created opportunities to free up space within the existing buildings on the site, most importantly, the composition studio in which Britten worked from 1958 to 1970, and where masterpieces such as War Requiem were written, has been re-created for visitors to experience.

Britten-Pears Archive by Stanton Williams
Floor plan - click for larger image

Construction value: £2.0 million
Completion Date: June 2013
Date of Occupation: June 2013 Construction phase: Nov 2011 - June 2013
Postal Address: Golf Lane, Aldeburgh, IP15 5PZ
Gross Internal Area: 520m2

Britten-Pears Archive by Stanton Williams
Long section - click for larger image

Client: Britten-Pears Foundation
Architect: Stanton Williams
Building Services Engineer: Max Fordham
Civil and Structural Engineer: Barton Engineers
Project Manager: David Langdon
Main Contractor: R G Carter Ltd
Cost Consultant: Davis Langdon
Arboriculturalist: Ian Keen Ltd

Britten-Pears Archive by Stanton Williams
Cross section - click for larger image
  • tall paul

    A beautiful building.

  • Naitsabes

    Very nice! I love the chosen materials: very Kahn to me. But fake brick lintels?

    “If you think of Brick for instance. You say to brick: what do you want Brick? And Brick says: ‘I like an arch.’

    And if you say to Brick: ‘Look, arches are expensive and I can use a concrete lintel over you. What you think of that Brick?’ Brick says: ‘I like an arch.’

    It is important that you honour the material which you use.”

    (Louis Kahn)

  • T,.T

    RIBA Stirling Prize winning spec.

    • james

      Although very good, if we are talking Stirling Prize I struggle to look beyond Niall McLaughlin’s chapel… would be nice to see something of a humble scale win again.