Tuesday, 1 November 2011

2011 Georgian Group Architectural Awards: winning and commended projects

Our Architectural Awards, sponsored by international estate agents Savills, recognise exemplary conservation and restoration projects in the United Kingdom and reward those who have shown the vision and commitment to restore Georgian buildings and landscapes. Awards are also given for high-quality new buildings in Georgian contexts and new architecture in the Classical tradition.

The 2011 Awards were presented by Viscount Linley on 31 October 2011.

The judges were the architectural historians Dr John Martin Robinson (Chairman), Professor David Watkin and Emeritus Professor John Wilton-Ely; the architecture critic Jonathan Glancey; Lady Nutting (Chairman of the Georgian Group); Charles Cator (Deputy Chairman of Christie's International); and Crispin Holborow (Director of Country Property at Savills).

2011 Winning and Commended Schemes

A record eighty entries were received, of which nineteen were shortlisted and eight were selected as award winners. The remaining shortlisted schemes were commended.

RESTORATION OF A GEORGIAN COUNTRY HOUSE
There are two aspects to restoring country houses. One is about repairing fabric, perhaps dramatically so after a fire. But the other, more subtle but no less important, is about revivifying a place, allowing it to recover its spirit.

JOINT WINNER Easton Neston, Towcester, Northants (Ptolemy Dean Architects for Leon Max) Easton Neston, 1702 by Hawksmoor for the Fermor-Heskeths, who sold up in 2005, is a house for which the adjective ‘delectable’ might have been invented. But it was left forlorn, denuded and neglected, in part fire-damaged, until rescued by the fashion designer Leon Max, who in an inspired move commissioned Ptolemy Dean to draw up a scheme for restoration and renewal. His scholarly approach has advanced our understanding of Hawksmoor’s architecture, especially in the superbly restored basement, previously so debased. As much as the restored fabric, though, it is the energy about the place that is striking: Easton Neston is once again the centre of a thriving country estate, but one with a distinctively twenty-first century inflection. To walk through the new design workshops in the Wren Wing is to understand how a large, non-agricultural estate can have a productive life and provide employment for local people without sacrificing anything of its spirit or setting.

JOINT WINNER Strawberry Hill, Twickenham (Inskip & Jenkins for The Strawberry Hill Trust) Strawberry Hill was built in the 1750s by Horace Walpole as his idiosyncratic country villa. Encroached on by London suburbia, it had become a building at risk by 1993 but after years of knife-edge negotiations has now been rescued by a dedicated trust. The award is partly a tribute to the perseverance and vision of those who solved an intractable problem and partly a recognition of the painstaking authenticity of their work, underpinned as it is by the most meticulous research aimed at recovering the form and spirit of Walpole’s creation. His plan and decorative scheme have been restored and selected furnishings, including bespoke damask, have been recreated. The effect – a complete rebirth – is stunning. A seminal, totemic property has been brought back from long-term decline, in the most impressive way possible.

COMMENDED Wilton House, near Salisbury, Wiltshire (Coade Ltd et al for the Earl of Pembroke) The two-tier Gothic cloisters were inserted into the central quadrangle at Wilton by Wyatt at the beginning of the nineteenth century, partly to improve circulation around the house and partly to provide a gallery for the 8th Earl’s collection of classical sculpture. The collection had been compromised over the years by migrations through the house and grounds and, more fundamentally, sales to pay death duties. Some of those pieces have now been re-purchased, others brought back to their proper home and the whole collection conserved and rearranged as Wyatt intended. The cloister stonework has also been conservatively repaired. The result is a new unity of architecture and contents and the recovery of lost historical integrity.

RESTORATION OF A GEORGIAN BUILDING IN AN URBAN SETTING

We are all well aware these days of the key rĂ´le that historic buildings play in urban regeneration, and part of the purpose of this award is to acknowledge the contribution made by restored Georgian buildings to the quality and vitality of our towns and cities. As usual, competition in this category was especially fierce.

JOINT WINNER Cockermouth Shopfront Heritage Scheme, Cumberland (By and for Allerdale Borough Council) Allerdale Borough Council has taken the opportunity of the severe flooding in Cockermouth in November 2009 to orchestrate the restoration of fifteen degraded shopfronts in Main Street and Market Place. We were deeply impressed by the determination of the local authority and local people to bring something positive out of adversity. The flooding must have been a serious shock to the system but, far from being defeated, Cockermouth seems to have emerged stronger – it is the kind of robust response that other British neighbourhoods that have suffered trials in recent months, albeit through man-made rather than natural disasters, would do well to study. We congratulate Cockermouth on its resilience and positive attitude and for recognising that improving its physical fabric, in the shape of its historic buildings, is both a powerful statement of intent and a tonic in times of trouble.

JOINT WINNER 88 Dean Street, Soho (David Bieda et al for Romil Patel) We were delighted by the meticulous restoration of a 1791 shopfront at 88 Dean Street, Soho, an exceptionally rare survival. The overpainted and dilapidated gesso fascia board and the damaged fanlight have been transformed in a project underpinned by extensive research, including detailed paint research by Patrick Baty. We are all fed up with the tide of cheap, garish plastic fascias swamping our shopping streets and often obscuring historic detail. This scheme, the brainchild of Romil Patel and David Bieda, is a standing reproach to such identikit laziness and stands in glaring counterpoint to the simultaneous obliteration of two entire blocks of Dean Street, just a few yards away, by the Crossrail juggernaut.


COMMENDED Creative Ropewalks scheme, Liverpool This umbrella project encompasses coordinated grant and enforcement action by Liverpool City Council to rescue and restore disused and derelict Georgian buildings. Included are several in Seel Street, a notoriously derelict Georgian street with numerous buildings at risk. If we at the Georgian Group were given to the weakness of despair, this street would surely have provoked it, over the years, as surely as any other in the country. Enormous physical changes are happening in Liverpool, as brash new architecture sweeps into the centre, and buildings such as these stand on land often seen, not least by their owners, as development opportunities. This project shows that rehabilitation is possible, as we maintain it is, mutatis mutandis, for those rows of Victorian terraced houses in Liverpool being demolished more or less as we speak. The success of the Creative Ropewalks Initiative, and the vision behind it, should give pause for thought. 

REUSE OF A GEORGIAN BUILDING

Redundancy can often herald a miserable period in a building’s history but it also offers opportunities for those who can see the almost endless potential of historic buildings for adaptation and flexible reuse.

WINNER Greenlaw Town Hall, Berwickshire (Adam Dudley Architects for the Scottish Historic Buildings Trust) Greenlaw Town Hall in Berwickshire, built in 1831 by John Cunningham as the Berwickshire Courthouse. Redundant and a building at risk since 2001, the old town hall has been restored and adapted by Adam Dudley Architects for use as office space for local businesses and as a hall for local people. Here is an example of what can be achieved with redundant public buildings, whose future in these straitened times is a major problem, as local authorities and public bodies seek to realise assets and cut spending. This year we have seen town halls auctioned, even put up for sale on eBay, with no controls at all over the suitability of the purchaser. This is a poor end for buildings that are the product of, and still speak of, civic pride. Encouragingly, this one in Greenlaw remains a building in civic use, a focal point not just visually but functionally, a building whose place in the architectural hierarchy of the town is still reflective of a higher, communal purpose.

RESTORATION OF A GEORGIAN CHURCH

This award is reserved for churches that remain in use for worship. For several years the category has been dominated by blockbuster restoration schemes on London churches, with the odd diversion to the provinces for excellent schemes such as last year’s winner, St Alkmund’s in Shrewsbury.

WINNER St George’s Hanover Sq, London (Molyneux Kerr Architects for the Rector and PCC of St George’s Church)  London has been so blessed in its recent church restorations that it seems almost hackneyed to shortlist another, but on merit St George’s Hanover Square deserves a laurel. St George’s, 1720s by John James, has benefited from a litany of improvements, both functional and aesthetic. The plasterwork has been painstakingly repaired, the servicing and lighting renewed, the reredos restored, the woodwork cleaned, the original decorative scheme reinstated, the clock faces restored and the gallery pews restored, even in part put back: now there’s evidence of cultural Counter-Reformation. Happily, so far at least, this has been a restoration tout court, unaccompanied by fashionable capital works. Almost as much as anything, the client deserves praise for knowing when to stop.

COMMENDED St Peter and St Paul, Wolverhampton (Rodney Melville and Partners for Roman Catholic Church) St Peter and St Paul in Wolverhampton, dating from 1729, is the oldest surviving post-Reformation public urban chapel for Catholics; and being pre-emancipation it was disguised, in this instance as a townhouse. Extended and altered in 1826 by Joseph Ireland as memorial to Bishop Milner, its setting was blighted by a 1960s ring road. Dereliction and the threat of demolition followed. Happily it has been rescued and restored, with works culminating in a reorganisation of the interior. A new altar and confessional build to apotheosis in a spectacular new crucifix by Rory Young. 

RESTORATION OF A GEORGIAN GARDEN OR LANDSCAPE

This award is especially prone to the vagaries of timing, as landscape restoration schemes are prolonged affairs. As usual, we include within the category schemes that involve the restoration of garden buildings and monuments and this year we have shortlisted three projects, one dauntingly broad in its sweep and two relatively petite.

WINNER Boughton, near Kettering, Northants (The Landscape Agency and Lance Goffort-Hall for Buccleuch Estates) Restoration of the main structure of the canal system, key water and earthworks features and the grand avenues (over a mile of lime avenues using home grown stock has been planted); repair of garden railings and gates; creation of a new formal landscape element, Orpheus by Kim Wilkie. The landscape restoration at Boughton in Northamptonshire, one of the great ducal estates, and indeed the extraordinary ambition of the scheme befits the ducal station. The work is undeniably heroic, representing not simply restoration but in effect a new phase of patronage. It encompasses restoration of the main canals and earthworks and reinstatement of the grand avenues, with over a mile of lime avenues planted using home-grown stock. The 1720s Mound, created for the 2nd Duke, has been rescued from dereliction and is now dramatically juxtaposed with an inverted sibling, Orpheus by Kim Wilkie.

COMMENDED The Obelisk at Hagley Hall, Hagley, Worcestershire (Reading Designs for Viscount Cobham) The designed landscape here is impressive and dramatic but has intractable problems, being on the edge of the Birmingham conurbation and bisected by a busy road. The farther parts, being hard to protect and police, are easy prey for vandals and the eyecatchers catch the eye of miscreants. We have seen similar problems elsewhere, not least at the Darnley Mausoleum in Kent, the exemplary restoration of which won this award three years ago. Here too there is a redemptive quality to the project – a determination to avoid defeatism, to inject hope where a shrug of the shoulders and abandonment to the forces of darkness would have been the easier path. We therefore choose to see the obelisk not only as an eyecatcher but as a beacon of civilised values, and its restoration by Lord Cobham as a fusillade against the barbarians.

COMMENDED Stourhead, Wiltshire (Temple of Apollo) (Caroe and Partners for The National Trust) The National Trust does so much excellent work of this sort that it is easy to take both the work and the institution for granted, but the initials NT stand just as well for National Treasure; it is part of the fabric of Britain and occasionally it is worth reminding ourselves how enriched we are by its presence, and conversely how impoverished we would be if were not there to undertake – often quietly, always meticulously – projects such as this. At Stourhead it has replaced the 1950s domed roof of the Temple of Apollo with one following the original, shallower profile and has restored the interior, recreating the gilt representation of the solar rays. This had been lost but was remade using evidence from contemporary correspondence and a surviving Flitcroft design at Woburn.

NEW BUILDING IN THE CLASSICAL TRADITION

Well, the apostles of glass are recanting! Even the architect of the Gherkin feels we are fed on thin gruel and acknowledges a desire for a richer and more satisfying architectural diet. When we inaugurated this award some might have thought us wilfully perverse, hopelessly kicking against the pricks. Even now we feel a little like recusants denying the orthodoxy, and certainly no other awards are yet prepared to acknowledge that the classical tradition survives. But, inch by inch, classicism is edging back into the mainstream, asserting its validity as an architectural language. The proof is in the quality of the projects we see annually.


WINNER Shilstone Manor, Modbury, Devon (Christopher Rae-Scott for Sebastian and Lucy Fenwick) Shilstone is a fascinating palimpsest, a new country house grafted onto an 1800 remodelling of a mediaeval house. The building had been progressively reduced in size during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries until it was effectively a ruined farmhouse. The task of rebuilding it over the past ten years has been daunting enough, but what especially impresses is the painstaking thoroughness of the work, using locally quarried stone and directly-employed local craftsmen and basing the plans on meticulous historical and archaeological research. Among the hills of south Devon this must at times have seemed a Sisyphean labour, but the result is a triumph.

COMMENDED Mickley Park, near Ripon, Yorkshire: new dower house (Francis Johnson and Partners for Mr Robert Staveley) Mickley is a new dower house on the Staveleys’ North Stainley Hall estate in Yorkshire. Set on the site of derelict modern farm buildings within a 140 acre redundant dairy farm, the house has all the attributes you would expect from a master practitioner like Digby Harris: elegance; controlled panache; the flourish of the Venetian windows and Gibbs surround; and above all, perhaps, rootedness in context. This is a Yorkshire house, robust and dignified. What gives it added distinction is its status as an eco-house. The marriage of modern eco-friendly insulation and heating systems with classical architecture can lead to strained results, but the lesson from Mickley, which has a sophisticated ground heat recovery system, is that it can equally well be achieved unostentatiously and with aplomb.

COMMENDED Ann’s Court, Selwyn College, Cambridge, new accommodation block (Porphyrios Associates for Selwyn College) An Oxbridge project won this award last year and evidence of enlightened varsity patronage continues this year with Demetri Porphyrios’s Ann’s Court at Selwyn College, Cambridge. Undergraduate accommodation can be startlingly banal and perfunctory – much is being built at the moment in our major cities which shows how far the depths can be plumbed – so this is a refreshing reminder that well-made, serious architecture still has a place and that Oxford and Cambridge remain a bastion against the wider preference for cheapjack squats. Everything here, from the load-bearing dressed brick to the carefully-composed arcade, the pedimented dormers and the masculine chimneystacks, suggests a taking to heart of Ruskin’s imperative: “When we build, let us think that we build for ever.”

COMMENDED Whittlebury Lodge, near Towcester, Northants (Peregrine Bryant Architects for Mr and Mrs Colin Lees-Millais) Whittlebury is a charming limewashed house at the heart of the ancient hunting forest of Whittlebury in Northamptonshire. It is a sylvan idyll that could easily have been spoilt by an ill-judged building. The site is superb and the effect of being set within a natural rather than a designed landscape is compelling: the architect has responded cleverly by conceiving the building as a hunting lodge, allowing the forest to flow unmediated up to the rear elevation, creating dramatic vistas. Again, there is a subtle responsiveness to context here which suggests that the architect has spent hours on site formulating a bespoke response. The result is satisfying, with a sense of drama that stops short of bombast.

GILES WORSLEY AWARD FOR A NEW BUILDING IN A GEORGIAN CONTEXT

We were delighted to be able to name this award, introduced in 2006, in honour of the late Dr Giles Worsley, who served as a Trustee of the Georgian Group for many years among his many other accomplishments.

The award is an especially apt tribute to Giles, as he himself inspired it. He was, as we know, equally comfortable with historic and contemporary buildings and he sensibly saw past, present and future as part of the same continuum.

WINNER Richard Green Gallery, 32-33 New Bond St (George Saumarez Smith of Adam Architecture for Richard Green Gallery) In our view this building is bolder, more iconoclastic and less conventional than a self-consciously ‘contemporary’ solution. It does the job asked of it to perfection, both functionally and aesthetically. Elegantly planned, elegantly designed, judiciously but not extravagantly ornamented, it never strays into showy self-obsession. It is in some ways a startling addition to its context, if only because cool, crisp design executed unapologetically in the classical language is so rarely allowed or achieved. The restrained Greek Revival idiom is beautifully controlled, the incised giant pilasters and Greek key frieze set off by a bas-relief stone frieze of Homeric subjects by Alexander Stoddart. All in all, an impressive essay in street architecture.

COMMENDED Old Rectory, Church Langton, Leicestershire (Kitchen extension) (Nick Cox Architects for Mr and Mrs Mark Newton) The test of adding extensions to historic buildings is all too often failed. We know that as well as anyone, being consulted as we are on proposals that range from the stridently inharmonious to the inoffensively pedestrian. Both detract from the host building. Stylish additions that respectfully and literately fit in their context are much rarer and are worth lauding when found. Here is a quiet, elegant solution to a deceptively simple problem. Properly subservient in height, properly deferential in scale and properly harmonious in its materials, this single storey brick extension cleverly uses existing screen walls as a foil to a building that is at once self-assured and restrained.

SPECIAL AWARD

Dumfries House, Cumnock, Ayrshire (By and for The Great Steward of Scotland’s Dumfries House Trust) To recognise a remarkable conservation achievement, namely the saving of Dumfries House in Ayrshire and its contents. The importance of historic buildings often lies not in their fabric only but in their contents; when the latter have been commissioned and made for the house, the loss caused by dispersal is immense and usually irretrievable. So it would have been at Dumfries, where the remarkable collection of Chippendale furniture commissioned by the 5th Earl of Dumfries, including a superb rosewood bookcase and mahogany bed, was put up for sale along with the house by his descendant in 2007 and was heading south to London along the M6 when a dramatic intervention by the HRH The Prince of Wales led to a literal U-turn. The reunification of the 5th Earl’s house and furniture, the acquisition of both by The Great Steward of Scotland’s Dumfries House Trust, specially-formed for the purpose, and the subsequent careful restoration of the house is one of the success stories of the past twenty years.

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