Boardman House, Norwich University of the Arts

Winner – Education Buildings Award 2016

Adrian James Acoustics

Boardman House, Norwich University of the Arts

30th June 2016

This project represents a successful and sensitive integration of acoustic and architectural design, which in is unusual in a historic building. Often in the conversion of listed buildings, the conservation constraints lead to severe compromises to, or in some cases complete abandonment of, the acoustic design. The building has already won a RIBA East Award and the Norfolk Constructing Excellence Heritage Award but more to the point, the staff and students are very happy with it.


Both the building and the brief were acoustically very challenging. Prior to the project, the basement housed a series of church meeting and function rooms, with the ground and first floors housing offices set around a large central two-storey meeting and worship space with a large glazed roof lantern, barrelled ceilings with stout cornices and a balcony with an ornate wrought iron balustrade. To provide good acoustics for study and teaching while remaining sensitive to the historic building fabric, required extensive use of innovative finishes such as spray plaster, monolithic rendered mineral tile ceilings and slatted timber finishes. The design also required meticulous detailing of sound-insulating wall and floor constructions, particularly separating floors. The result is a building which achieves good acoustic conditions in a largely ‘invisible’ manner.


The judges felt this was a really excellent achievement particularly given the modest budget available. An open plan space had been made to work successfully so that it that fulfilled its purpose and achieved a good acoustic performance. The challenges of doing this within a listed building made this even more impressive and it is an excellent example of architectural acoustics at its best.