Astley Castle

Seamless integration of medieval and modern in a picturesque setting

The Project

A 12th-century fortified manor which had been lying in ruins since a fire in 1978, Astley Castle had seen additions and revisions carried out in almost every century since Medieval times. Throughout its history the site has been owned by no less than three Queens of England.

The Landmark Trust boldly set out to reinstate occupancy of Astley Castle in a manner appropriate for the 21st century.  After careful recording, those parts of the building beyond pragmatic repair were taken down.  By inserting a groundbreaking modern holiday home into the shell of the ancient castle, the architects, Witherford Watson Mann, were able to both stabilise the ruin and create the next layer of the building’s history.  The results showcase how modern architecture can be unashamedly but sympathetically stitched into ancient fabric to significant effect.


The Approach

Oculus proactively guided the Design Team in the challenging task of applying the Building Regulations for residential accommodation for this ancient and complex moated site. The new-build introduced consolidates and ties together what could be saved of the original fabric as unobtrusively as possible, leaving the Castle’s form in the landscape largely unchanged.  Large glazed panels now frame views of medieval stonework and the adjacent church and surrounding countryside.  


Astley Castle won the RIBA Stirling Prize for the Best Building of the Year in 2013.

RIBA President Stephen Hodder described the project as ‘a real labour of love’, saying ‘Astley Castle is an exceptional example of how modern architecture can revive an ancient monument.’

Astley Castle won numerous awards including:

  • RICS West Midlands Conservation Award 2013
  • RIBA West Midlands Regional Award 2013
  • RIBA West Midlands Conservation Award 2013
  • RIBA National Award 2013
     

CASE STUDY
The Royal High School, Bath

Cranwell House is a Grade II-listed Victorian mansion house set within a significant historic landscape in the World Heritage City of Bath. It was purchased by The Girls’ Day School Trust as the future home for the Junior School of The Royal High School Bath, which was looking to move from outmoded facilities on its existing site elsewhere in the city centre.

Following a limited competition Fielden Clegg Bradley Studios were appointed to sensitively refurbish the main house, reinstating the principal rooms of the house as new teaching spaces and introducing a contemporary and sustainable extension building within the immediate context of the listed building and the wider parkland setting.

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CASE STUDY
Queen Mary University of London

Part of the School of Humanities, the 5-storey building contains a large auditorium, studios, teaching and administration facilities designed by Wilkinson Eyre Architects Limited for Queen Mary’s University of London at its Mile End Campus. The new film and drama studio is clad in distinctive glass panels – digitally printed with artwork by the artist Jacqueline Poncelet.  QMUL is highly ranked amongst UK universities for the provision of arts and humanities courses.

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CASE STUDY
Burwalls House

The Burwalls site consists of a substantial historic Grade II listed main house and stable block annex and lies in nearly 5 acres of land adjacent to Brunel’s world famous Clifton Suspension Bridge. The main house is in the Jacobethan style and was constructed in 1872 as a private dwelling by Joseph Leech, a local entrepreneur and owner of the Bristol Times and Mirror.

The site was purchased in 2014 by Kersfield Developments who obtained permission to split the main house into 5 impressive apartments, convert the Stable block in to 2 units and for the construction of 4 new detached dwellings.

The main house has been extended at various points during its history and some of the current works in this sensitive conversion were to remove elements of the more recent additions which are detrimental to the original building.

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