Snell Associates

Garsington Opera Pavilion

Garsington Opera’s move to Wormsley, a lush English pastoral estate on a grand scale, has significantly upgraded their facilities in line with the expectations of 21st Century opera goers.

The new pavilion offers superb acoustics, increased comfort and a perfect setting in which to experience opera performances of the very highest quality. The 600-seat summer pavilion is designed to be demounted annually within 3-4 weeks and will leave no permanent trace when removed.

The new auditorium occupies a commanding yet sheltered position within the Park, with views over Home Farm and the Lake. It features covered verandas and terraces, which contain bars and places to linger and enjoy the views.

The galvanized finish was selected for its long-term protection – Garsington have a 15 year lease on the site and the building has been designed for a working life of at least this period – and for its durability, a key aspect considering that the building is designed to be annually installed and demounted.

The longer-term environmental aspects of a maintenance free coating were also of paramount importance.

One of the most unique aspects of the design of the opera pavilion is that it is the first time that an auditorium has been created using lightweight construction of steel and fabric to provide such world class acoustic performance standards.

The walls of the auditorium are all shaped and profiled, rather like wind-surfer sails, to assist in sound reflections and the roof is a double-layer fabric which reduces the loudness of any rain noise by 50% or 14dB.

Both were the subject of extensive Research and Development – involving mock-ups and acoustic testing to optimise the design. This project was only possible using steel and fabric construction, using design innovation and testing to create the shape and form of the auditorium, providing the required acoustics for international standard opera. In these respects it is a world first.

Images © Dennis Gilbert and Mike Hoban

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