Wood Awards 2013: Commercial & Public Access, Winner

Colyer-Fergusson Building, Canterbury, Kent

· Credit: C Richters

University of Kent’s Colyer-Fergusson Building provides facilities for its thriving extra-curricular music programme. It 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. 

Canadian Douglas fir was chosen for its colour and vitality throughout, except on the floors where the hardness of oak was needed

Natural timber has been used to finish the interior of the building; while the outside consists of flint-faced blocks and bronze powder-coated windows.  Tim Ronalds Architects employed timber throughout the public spaces to provide the warmth and acoustic qualities conducive to music. Canadian Douglas fir was chosen for its colour and vitality throughout, except on the floors where the hardness of oak was needed. 

Douglas fir plywood lines the walls and ceiling of the concert hall, braced with rails made of the solid timber to avoid any unwanted resonance and provide acoustic diffusion. Pistachio green curtains can be drawn to modulate the acoustic for different performance types.

Two banks of retractable seating are finished with Douglas fir fascias, continuing the material and rhythm of the hall lining panels. Impromptu performances take place in the foyer, which is again lined with the plywood. 

The material has evidently worked. The first public concert in the new building was performed by the Brodsky Quartet, after which the ensemble’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.’

The judges praised this beautiful space, where the rhythm of the acoustics had been so carefully considered. They said it was ‘a very pleasing space to be in because every last detail has been so carefully thought out and executed.’ 



Building client/owner 
University of Kent

Tim Ronalds Architects

Structural engineer  
Price & Myers

Main contractor/builder 
R Durtnell & Sons


Wood supplier 
Decor Solutions

Other services 
Alsford Timber, The Natural Wood Floor Co

Wood species used 
Canadian Douglas fir, European oak