We were invited by a charitable Christian organisation to produce a feasibility study and sketch design for new almshouses and associated community facilities within the grounds of a c16th grade II Listed building with an existing resident community. The brief suggested that a new wing would be in contemporary style, and fit in with the existing, but not necessarily be a mirror of them. They required between 12-15 new apartments for single occupancy and a common room to seat 35-40 people with kitchen and WC facilities to add to the existing 15 apartments.
We added to their brief some items we believe necessary to support the growth of the community, including an extension of the Chapel, and minor alterations to the existing buildings and surrounding landscape
Our study showed six quite different options for how the site could be developed to comfortably accommodate 12-15 new apartments and a Common Room, while also making life better for existing residents. The photo-collages here show Option F.
There are some key aspects common to all options:
1) Homes and shared facilities to support a dignified, communal life.
2) Minor amendments to the existing garden and buildings to bring out their best qualities.
3) A gentle form of architecture which nestles comfortably into the historic setting, but which is unashamedly new.
4) An architecture which listens carefully to the site, the residents and the wider community and responds sensitively.
5) A deeply practical response which relishes solving complex problems in a simple way.
Our favourite option (F) centres around two yards, one a courtyard for meeting and gathering, and the other a garden for tending plants and enjoying their growth. All of the main areas of the site are accessed off the courtyard, much as in a traditional monastery.
The extended Chapel takes central place, easily accessed off the courtyard via a ramp and stairs, with the Common Room set to one side, dividing the yards in two, but with fully glazed façades allowing views through.
All apartments are arranged in clusters of four (two flats downstairs and two upstairs, and integrated stair-lifts may be added when required.
A new accessible entry courtyard is created to the east of the historic range, giving direct access into the Chapel from the rear, via the new lobby.
The proposals were completed just before the 2020 lockdown, and we hope to continue work on the project in due course.