Tuesday, 30 October 2012


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. In this category we have shortlisted two schemes, listed here in alphabetical order. 

Roehampton House in south-west London has all the intrinsic grandeur you would expect of a marriage of Archer and Lutyens, but this had been badly injured by the casual barbarities inflicted during its long spell as a hospital in the twentieth century. The iron law of institutional use is that rubbish accumulates in and around historic buildings: sheds, portakabins, car parks, all manner of accretive overlay that obscures what is finest in the architecture and setting. Added to that, massive RSJs had been inserted in the 1970s to increase floor loading capacity. All this has now been expertly unpicked: proper proportions rediscovered, panelling restored and reinstated, car parks turned into gardens. The eighteenth century house, once an apologetic side-show, is now triumphantly centre-stage and serves once more as a grand place to live.

Wem Mill in Shrewsbury is an early nineteenth century mill, formerly disused and at risk and now also converted to apartments. Its recent history is the usual post-industrial tale of disuse, decay and dereliction, not confined to the north but also evident in southerly counties where housing shortages are most acute. It makes perfect sense, as here, to solve both problems together by converting mills, with their large, open-plan internal volumes, to reasonably high-density housing. On brownfield sites such as this, where demolition is often the preferred option, surviving historic buildings can provide an anchor, a fixed point that roots a new housing development in its historic context.

The winner will be announced on the evening of 31 October 2012. 

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