In June 2013, to mark Britten’s centenary, a new home for the composer's uniquely comprehensive archive opened in the grounds of The Red House.
Architects Stanton Williams have designed a beautiful building that brings together under one roof collections that were previously across the site, and should keep them safe from fire and flood. The stable conditions needed for long-term preservation are achieved by low-energy, passive means rather than air-conditioning, making this a landmark sustainable building in the archive world.
The architects, and their engineers, Max Fordham, describe the concept as an ‘egg in a box’: thick, well-insulated walls enclose the main storage room, surrounded by a buffer space which helps moderate the temperature and relative humidity between the outside environment and the material within. This concept is not only functional, but also expresses within the design the preciousness of the archive collections.
Visually the building is expressed as two interlocking forms, reflecting its internal functions. The area to the north contains staff offices, support spaces and a study room and has a flat, green roof. This element of the building sits within the site as a garden pavilion, with generous windows on the west and north façades allowing views out to the gardens, giving a strong sense of connection to the rest of the site for staff and visitors in the reading room. The result is a building firmly rooted in its context which already feels like it has always been there.