The Wong Avery Gallery, Trinity Hall

A choir chair in harmony with its serene music practice space

The Wong Avery Gallery is a small exquisite building designed by Níall McLaughlin Architects at the centre of Trinity Hall’s Avery Court in Cambridge. The contemporary stone building is designed as a music practice space for the students at Trinity Hall, and occupies a tight site flanked by the historic architecture of Trinity and Clare colleges.

With the floorplan of a Greek cross, and a loadbearing construction of stone columns and beams, its simple and traditional approach suits the surroundings, while a minimal interior and muted material choices give it a modern expression.

This solid building is constructed in four types of British stone, all in pale colours that help it appear visually light. Inside, a frame and walls of Portland Limestone, Jordans Basebed and Shell Grove Whitbed, come to life when illuminated by natural light pouring in through the roof lantern. The floor of Purbeck Limestone brings a different interest, with the markings of ancient fossils and unique textures. Contrasting the stone are walls of inbuilt shelving; these house rows of individual brass boxes that contain the college’s collection of precious musical and choral manuscripts and scores.

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While the size of this jewel-box building makes it suitable only for small recitals and performances, an audience can watch from rows of Luke Hughes choir chairs placed in the four bay windows that extend from the central space. These windows open on to a landscaped courtyard of shrubs and greenery for larger receptions in good weather.

A challenge for us and the architect was to have the space and furniture accommodate a range of uses: such as a single lesson sitting at the piano or harpsichord, or the rehearsals of a 22-voice choir. Fine-tuning the acoustics for this range of uses required careful selection of materials by the architect. The stone surfaces reflect sound, but the patinated brass of the storage boxes, window and door frames helped achieve the required reverberance. The gallery design also had to consider qualities of privacy, temperature and humidity as well as acoustics and light.

 

The adaptable LH-42 chair made perfect sense for this highly unique space as a practical, minimal choir chair with a contemporary design. Finalising finishes with the architect was a process that reflects both the meticulous detailing involved in this project and our own meticulous attention to detail. We worked together on a bespoke lime-washed finish for the choir chair that complements the stone. We also guided the choice of leather upholstery in Andrew Muirhead Cashmere, a light taupe colour with just a subtle difference in tone to the wood frame.

It is an elegant match that doesn’t distract visually in this small and easily-crowded space. The LH-42 chair also has the advantage that it can be stacked and moved easily on a dolly or music chair rack.

Having this dedicated, versatile space for music, and an original and enlightening piece of architecture to practise in, will benefit the choir and musicians of Trinity Hall now and for many years to come.

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