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Torre Abbey, Torquay

Robust and fearless engagement

Architecton for Torbay Council

Contract value: £8,070,000

GIA: 2540m2

Conservation award

Torre Abbey is grade I listed and a Scheduled Ancient Monument – the monastery founded in 1196. After years as an art gallery and museum it has now been repaired and remodelled. The architect has had to get to grips with 122 rooms and 20 changes in level. Bold decisions have had to be made, such as removing a wall dating from 1600 to clear a cloister walk. Most striking of the changes is the modern admissions building in black steel and black zinc, over long-demolished cloisters, using the bay rhythm of the archaeological footings. 


Paired steel plate columns with glass infill on the new building help make the structure delicate and light. A daring new lift and stair core has been inserted into a newly formed light-well deep inside the plan; historic rooms have been beautifully re-presented. The adjacent ruins have been repaired with a light touch. This is not a polite conversion; it is challenging, articulate and thought-provoking. Above all, it represents a robust and fearless engagement with a very precious building. 

See other winners in the RIBA Regional Awards 2015 – South West and Wessex

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