Cruciform practice and performance pavilion overcomes planning and construction hurdles 

Níall McLaughlin Architects was presented with a range of planning and construction hurdles after it was commissioned to deliver the WongAvery Music Gallery for Cambridge University’s Trinity Hall.

But the practice rose to the challenge of slotting a new building providing practice and performance space into the college’s Avery Court, which is surrounded by grade I and grade II-listed buildings, including the chapels of Trinity Hall and Clare College.

In addition to displaying appropriate reverence to its listed neighbours, the new pavilion needed to ensure that light levels for windows facing the court were maintained. The scheme also had to be buildable with access exclusively via a narrow pedestrian passageway.

McLaughlin’s solution is a small yet monumental object that plays against the complexity of its surroundings.

The 73sq m gallery is a load-bearing construction made of Portland stone and precast concrete, based on a Greek cross plan.

David Valinsky Photography WongAvery Gallery-6

Source: David Valinsky Photography

The WongAvery Gallery at Trinity Hall, Cambridge, by Níall McLaughlin Architects

Performances take place in the centre, with audience seating in the bay-windowed arms of the cross. The building’s flanking walls are lined with shelves to store sheet music.

A glazed lantern brings light into the centre of the plan and also provides additional volume and internal surface area to improve the acoustic characteristics of the space.

The structure’s bay windows can be fully opened, meaning the gallery can be used as a bandstand for open-air performances.

David Valinsky Photography WongAvery Gallery-3

Source: David Valinsky Photography

The gallery was also built to house the Trinity Hall’s harpsichord, which is highly sensitive and requires strict environmental control to stay in tune.

The four corners of the Greek cross contain vertical ducts leading from a plant room concealed beneath the gallery. They distribute air at the correct temperature and humidity.

Construction began in 2019 and completed in 2021.


Project data

Client: Trinity Hall

Architect: Níall McLaughlin Architects

Contractor: Barnes Construction

Structural engineer: Smith & Wallwork

M&E engineer: Max Fordham

Acoustic engineer: Gillieron Scott Acoustic Design

Landscape architect: Kim Wilkie

Stone consultant: Harrison Goldman