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The Parchment Works, Northamptonshire

By chris
Will gamble architects the parchment works ph johan dehlin 01

A departure from our normal fare, this beautiful restoration is built using reclaimed clay brick.  Designed by Will Gamble Architects, the project extends and reworks a Grade II listed Victorian house and its outbuildings in Northamptonshire. Originally connected to the existing double-fronted house was a dis-used cattle shed and beyond that a ruined parchment factory – now a scheduled monument.

The initial brief was to convert the cattle shed and demolish the ruin to make way for a new extension. It was clear that the client viewed the ruin as a constraint rather than a positive asset that could be celebrated through a sensitive but well-conceived intervention, writes Will Gamble Architects. Instead of demolishing the ruin, we proposed ‘a building within a building’, comprising two lightweight volumes delicately inserted within the masonry walls to preserve and celebrate the historic structure.

A palette of ‘honest’ materials was chosen in reference to the site’s history and the surrounding rural context. Externally, Corten steel, oak and reclaimed brick are combined to striking effect. The ruin has been made good using site-found brick and stone salvaged from the remnants of smaller, previously demolished satellite outbuildings. The existing walls have been repointed in lime mortar for reasons of cost and sustainability, as well as to complement the surrounding context.

Internally, the structural beams of the existing cattle shed have been exposed, the stone walls re-pointed and washed in lime, and a concrete plinth cast along the base to create a monolithic skirting. A contemporary kitchen – also designed by the practice – juxtaposes the uneven and disordered nature of the ruin and continues the theme of a modern intervention set within a historic context.


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