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Snape Maltings Concert Hall
Snape Bridge, south of Snape, Suffolk
Snape Maltings Concert Hall
associated engineer
Arup Associates
Ove Arup & Partners
date  1965 - 1967, 1969 - 1970
UK era  Modern  |  category  Building  |  reference  TM391575
photo  courtesy Arup
In 1963, engineer Sir Ove Arup realised his vision of a multi-disciplinary office ó Arup Associates, headed by architect Sir Philip Dowson. The Snape Maltings Concert Hall, home of the Aldeburgh Festival of Music & Arts, is a product of that vision.
The concert hall building is a redevelopment of Snape Maltings, a traditional maltings building dating from the mid 19th century. It was one of the largest such buildings in East Anglia. However, by 1965 it was uneconomic as a maltings and became disused.
Meanwhile, in 1948 the composer Benjamin Britten, together with tenor Peter Pears and Imogen Holst (daughter of composer Gustav Holst), had founded the Aldeborough Festival of Music & Arts. Britten lived just four miles from Snape Maltings, and by 1967 the maltings become a permanent home for the festival. The idea of conserving such a building and using it as a concert hall was innovative at that time ó concert halls and theatres were more usually found in civic centres.
In 1967, the Queen opened the new concert hall. But on the first night of the 1969 Festival, tragedy struck and the hall was destroyed by fire. Temporary accommodation was found to allow the festival to continue that year and, amazingly, the hall was rebuilt in time for the start of the 1970 Festival. Her Majesty returned on the first night to complete a second opening ceremony.
The defining feature of the building is its apparently-simple pitched roof, which is tiled to look traditionally-built from a distance. It is in fact a triumph of sensitive design, with a timber boarded lining which, together with its unencumbered structure, gives rise to the excellent acoustics for which the concert hall is renowned.
The structure of the roof consists of trusses made up mainly in timber. They feature V-shaped struts held in position by unobtrusive steel tension rods.
The concert hall is a testament to the determination of the festival founders, and also to the success of Ove Arupís vision of multi-disciplinary design, in this case engineering and architecture. Arup was himself an accomplished pianist, so he would have appreciated the qualities needed for this project.
Architect: John Donat
Supervising engineer: Derek Sugden
Research: ND
"Ove Arup: Masterbuilder of the 20th Century"
by Peter Jones, Yale University Press, London, 2006

Snape Maltings Concert Hall