Utilitarian water tower becomes home for a photographer with a taste for Thunderbirds
RIBA National Award winner 2021
RIBA East Award winner 2021
Tonkin Liu for private client
Contract value: £575,000
Cost per m2: £3,594
This water tower in Norfolk is an extraordinary project that brings a decaying structure back into use as a second family home. The building is divided into accommodation to the north and a stair tower to the south. On the ground floor is a kitchen/dining room, then two floors of bedrooms and an upper living/dining/kitchen tank room at the top, accessed by a delightful helical stair made from two layers of CLT with balusters that reuse reinforcement from the original tank room.
The new structure sits within the original metal framing and is made from CLT as well. It provides structural stiffness to the tower. The interior spaces within the new structure are exposed CLT, which has a warmth and visual weight. Externally, this is wrapped in corrugated reflective metal; the play of light of the passing weather on the corrugations is a joy and a complement to the ironwork of the original structure, which criss-crosses in front.
The upper tank room enjoys a ribbon window around three sides, providing panoramic views, while a rooflight looks up to the sky. The interior retains its exposed metal panels from the plant room, with the ballcocks and valves kept as decorative features. Externally, the CLT is wrapped in insulated grey-painted render, which transforms the space into a ‘look out’ with a 1930s architectural language.
The client is a photographer, who, to achieve the vision within budget, became the contractor. Care and attention are evident throughout, as was the approach to retain or reuse as much as possible of the original building. It is exemplary.