The Light at Euston | Friends House

London, UK

Sound Space Design - The Light at Euston_Friends House_Auditorium ©Hufton+Crow

Friends House in Euston is the headquarters of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) in Britain. Completed in 1926 and winning an RIBA bronze medal for architect Hubert Lidbetter, the building is now Grade II listed and comprises over 6,000 square metres of accommodation.

The largest space in the building – the Large Meeting House, now open as standalone venue The Light, seats over 1,000 and was designed to host the four-day Britain Yearly Meeting held two years out of three. The space is also used by numerous Quaker committees as well as commercial hires to mainly public and third sector organisations.

Together with the Architect and Anne Minors Performance Consultants, Sound Space Design developed a refurbishment scheme for the Large Meeting House that better suits the needs of Quaker worship, conference and performance use while also improving accessibility and sustainability.

Gawne wrote of Lidbetters meeting houses [Gawne. E (1997) Buildings of Endearing Simplicity: The Friends Meeting Houses of Huber Lidbetter. Twentieth Century Society Journal]:  “For Lidbetter the first essentials of a Friends meeting house were good acoustics and sound insulation.  His main innovative feature in this building was a result of the need for the large meeting house to hold approximately 1500 people and be acoutstically “perfect”, so that any person could see and hear, and be seen and heard, by anyone in the room, in essence producing a debating chamber”.

To safeguard Lidbetters original vision the acoustical goals include very low background noise, good speech intelligibility for both un-amplified and amplified events, and negligible disturbance from outside noise (particularly traffic noise from Euston Road outside, rain noise on the roof light and from other activities within the multi-use building).   The acoustical impact of the large pyrimidal ceiling was tamed with careful choice of form, buildup and material specification.

Having won a RIBA medal in 1926, is it especially apt that the refurbished building won again in the 2014 RIBA awards for the London Region:  The Light at Euston, Friends House – RIBA London Award Citation 2015