The Dovecote Studio forms part of the internationally renowned music campus at Snape Maltings, founded by Benjamin Britten in derelict industrial buildings on the Suffolk coast. Britten was inspired by the almost abstract landscape of the reedbeds at the boundary between the land and the sea: the ruins of a nineteenth century dovecot sit directly on this boundary, looking out across the marshes.
The Dovecote Studio inhabits the ruins and expresses the internal volume of the Victorian structure as a Cor-ten steel ‘lining’, a monocoque welded structure that was built next to the ruin and craned in when complete. The building is fully welded in a single piece, like the hull of a ship, to achieve weather tightness, and then fitted with a simple plywood inner lining.
A large north light roof window provides even light for artists, while a small mezzanine platform with a writing desk incorporates a fully opening glazed corner window that gives long views over the marshes towards the sea. The single volume will be used by artists in residence (it can operate as a simple bedsitting room with a compact kitchen), by musicians as rehearsal or performance space (there is a large opening door to an adjoining courtyard), by staff for meetings or as a temporary exhibition space.
Only the minimum necessary brickwork repairs were carried out to stabilise the existing ruin prior to the new structure being inserted. Decaying existing windows were left alone and vegetation growing over the dovecote was protected to allow it to continue a natural process of ageing and decay. Prior to the Cor-ten structure being inserted, a new drainage channel was cast to falls at base level to ensure that water running down between the old and the new structures is channelled to accessible drainage points at the door thresholds.
The Cor-ten structure itself is fabricated from full size 1200 x 2400mm sheets with regular staggered welded joints, into which door and window openings are cut in locations dictated by internal layout. The framed wall and roof panels were pre-fabricated off site. These were then welded together in a compound next to the ruin, and the finished Cor-ten shell was craned into place in the course of one day.
The interior walls and ceiling of the space are insulated, sealed with a high-performance vapour control layer, and lined with spruce plywood to create a timber ‘box’ within the Cor-ten shell. Laminated plywood sheets also form the stairs, balustrade and mezzanine structure.