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Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings, Spring Gardens, Shropshire

Words:
Regional Awards Jury

Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios’ sustainable refurbishment and conversion triumphs with the 2024 RIBA West Midlands Building, Client and Project Architect of the Year Awards

Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings.
Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings. Credit: Daniel Hopkinson

2024 RIBA West Midlands Award

2024 RIBA West Midlands Building of the Year
2024 RIBA West Midlands Project Architect of the Year
2024 RIBA West Midlands Client of the Year – Historic England

Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings, Spring Gardens, Shrewsbury, Shropshire
Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios for Historic England
Contract value: Confidential
GIA: 5,596m2

The brief for this project called for an exemplar of sustainable refurbishment to support the next 100 years of use for a building with a particularly innovative design heritage. Opened as a flaxmill in 1797, it was the world’s first iron-frame building and has been described as the ‘grandparent of skyscrapers’. Its combination of cast iron beams and columns, brick arches and cast iron ties made its construction fireproof, while large windows admitted natural light for its numerous employees. A century later, it was converted into a maltings through a second state-of-the-art design, with windows either blocked up or made smaller, boiler houses demolished, a timber hoist and tower added and a large kiln built. Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios has conserved the enduring elements of both uses to provide four floors of flexible working space, while cleverly weaving in a contemporary layer to accommodate a visitor centre and café.

A 13-step plan was established to safely remove rotten timber and reinstate the brick elevations. It was developed through negotiation between engineers and temporary works specialists through a trial bay.

  • Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings.
    Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings. Credit: Daniel Hopkinson
  • Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings.
    Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings. Credit: Daniel Hopkinson
  • Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings.
    Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings. Credit: Daniel Hopkinson
  • Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings.
    Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings. Credit: Daniel Hopkinson
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As part of the restoration and reuse, there must be a special mention of the engineering by AKT II. The structural strengthening design the firm devised for the existing fragile cast-iron frame has enabled it to withstand additional load capacity and alternative load paths while retaining its special character. Cast iron beams were strengthened through cross building ties, new structural screeds, and stirrups, which tied the -frame back to the newly reinforced masonry.

Specialist manufacturers and suppliers have been integral not only to the conservation but also to reuse and the heritage-led regeneration of the area. The next phase of 120 new sustainable homes is set to add to the regeneration benefits of the workspace and visitors’ centre.

The jury was hugely impressed by the scale, dedication and ambition of this project. The design of the newbuild interventions to facilitate the workspaces references the industrial heritage of the past, but also breathes in new life and use, making the building work again as an employment space and supporting the local economy. The conservation approach has been nothing short of exemplary. For all these reasons, the project architect Tim Greensmith has been awarded RIBA West Midlands Project Architect of the Year.

  • Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings.
    Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings. Credit: Daniel Hopkinson
  • Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings.
    Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings. Credit: Daniel Hopkinson
  • Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings.
    Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings. Credit: Daniel Hopkinson
  • Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings.
    Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings. Credit: Daniel Hopkinson
  • Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings.
    Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings. Credit: Daniel Hopkinson
12345

The project delivered a host of volunteering, training and local employment opportunities, ranging from construction skills to archival research. The client, Historic England, led it not only to save an important building from dereliction, but also as an opportunity for sharing, to further learning and expertise for the whole conservation sector. The relationship between the design team and client has culminated in a building of national importance for its conservation, ingenuity and forward-facing reuse and adaptation. It raises the ambition for the whole sector of sustainable reuse for historical buildings, which is of national importance.

See the rest of the RIBA West Midlands winners hereAnd all the RIBA Regional Awards here

To see the whole RIBA Awards process visit architecture.com.

RIBA Regional Awards 2024 sponsored by EH Smith and Autodesk

Credits

Contractor Croft Building and Conservation
Structural engineer AKT II
Environmental/M&E engineer E3 Consulting Engineers
Quantity surveyor/cost consultant Gleeds
Landscape architects LT Studio
Acoustic engineers ION Acoustics
Ecology Middlemarch Environmental 
Project management Historic England
Civil engineer AKT II
Interpretation designer Mather & Co
Catering Cooper 8

 

Credit: Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios
Credit: Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios
Credit: Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios
Credit: Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios
Credit: Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios

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