Wells Cathedral School, Cedars Hall

Wells, UK

Famed for being one of the top five music schools in the UK, the historic Wells Cathedral School has provided specialist music tuition for over a century. The newly constructed Cedars Hall provides the school with a world-class recital auditorium that can seat an audience of 300, alongside interconnected spaces for teaching, rehearsing, performing and recording.

Lying on the axis of Wells Cathedral’s Chapter house, the new building takes its name from the ancient cedar tree that sits alongside it. The elegant new building is recessed into the surrounding gardens, creating a harmonious link between its architecture and the landscape.


The part buried nature of the building created a number of challenges for Buro Happold, as we needed to ensure that enough light and ventilation reached the spaces.

Sustainability is another key part of Cedars Hall’s design, so we needed to carefully integrate passive and green design solutions into the building services strategy. With live music at its heart, the acoustic qualities of the hall were an essential element.

We worked closely with the rest of the project team to successfully integrate the building services with the acoustic design, carefully engineering systems to compliment the hall’s auditory performance.The tight budget also presented a number of challenges, as well as the need to carry out the design and construction while the school was still open to students.

Ian Tavener, Director, Buro Happold


Ensuring the spaces are effectively lit while being energy efficient, the performance and house lighting is provided by a single system of LED fittings. This system reduces the electrical load and minimises the access and maintenance requirements within the hall, keeping energy consumption and the need for future repairs to a minimum.

Further adding to the sustainability of the site, a reversible ground source heat pump system provides the recital hall with both cooling and heating by either recovering waste heat from the cooling system or extracting it from the ground. The ventilation strategy provides fresh air at floor level, which is then removed at high level via concealed intakes, using the principal of displacement ventilation.

The acoustic performance of the venue was an integral part of its design. We worked alongside a renowned acoustician to achieve the very best acoustic performance, seamlessly integrating our systems into the building. The spaces are designed so that the acoustic panel walls and audio-visual equipment can be reconfigured, offering different acoustic qualities to suit different music styles and performances.

Ian Tavener


Cedars Hall offers the music school with the flexibility to perform at both Wells Cathedral and the new auditorium. With the spaces offering contrasting environments, the hall opens up performance possibilities to extend beyond classic choir and organ music and welcoming a more diverse programme.

The new hall not only provides a unique performance space for the school’s 200 specialist musicians, but also offers inspirational community education for thousands of primary school children, elderly and disability groups in the South West each year.

wells cathedral school cedars hall
The new hall provides a unique performance space for the school’s 200 specialist musicians. Image: Eric Parry
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