Architects celebrating planning go-aheads include Purcell for a library extension, SPASE Design for a conservation and arts centre extension, JM Architects for a vast rental-property masterplan and EN Architects for … a Medieval castle
Library extension, Queen Mary University, London
Students at Queen Mary University will soon have an extra two floors of study spaces in which to research and revise. Clad in glazed curtain walling, Purcell’s rooftop extension offers overlooks the neighbouring grade II listed Sephardic Jewish Novo Cemetery as well as campus roofscapes, offering students a view to gaze into as respite from their books.
The existing library building is a solid-looking three-storey block clad in red brickwork stretching prominently through the heart of the Mile End campus. The new addition will give it a more prominent height as a focal point for the surrounding courtyards and buildings. Although introducing a new palette of materials—most strikingly the bronze finished rainscreen cladding—Purcell senior architect James Murray ties the new extension to the existing mass through vertical fins positioned in relation to the grid and rhythm of windows below.
Internally, open and step-free floorplans, fully accessible for wheelchair users, provide space for silent desk study, breakout spaces and a central core of access and toilets, including a generous lightwell linking the two new floors and bringing light throughout.
Grade I listed Sherborne House, Sherborne, Dorset, is set to be refurbished and extended to create an events and exhibition space following granting of listed building consent from Dorset Council. The house has fabric dating from the 16th century but, as English Heritage outlined in its submission of evidence, it is the 1720s three-storey range, built to be one of the most impressive properties in the town, that carries most architectural importance.
Over the 20th century, its use as a girls school saw much of the fine interior lost though its classical exterior and landscaped grounds remained. After the closure of the school in 1992, Sherborne House was added to the Buildings at Risk register, where it has remained ever since.
The house has had a complicated planning and construction history over the last two decades. In 1998, permission was granted for a large extension of three flats and an outdoor exhibition centre. Construction was started, but after two Heritage Lottery Fund applications failed, work was halted leaving a modern heavily-glazed two-storey extension to the rear.
In 2018, the Sherborne House Trust registered as a charity, with the objectives of restoring the property and developing plans for a new arts space within the nearby Paddocks. The plans were approved in 2019 but then sadly withdrawn when Covid hit and the scheme’s benefactor withdrew funding. The current scheme has been developed as a new approach, partnering with Dorset Visual Arts, which intends to have its headquarters in the refurbished building.
The historic house itself is due to be carefully refurbished with the reinstallation of missing interior fabric, while a new single-storey will wrap behind the house, creating a new courtyard space. Alongside the new office space, a café and dining facilities will be located in the new extension alongside artist studios and workshops.
The space under the copper peaks is left open plan for hiring out, exhibitions and events. Altogether it is hoped to start a new chapter in the house’s complicated architectural story, and be an asset to the town going forwards.
Union Mill, Wolverhampton
Planning in principle has been granted for a major scheme in Wolverhampton’s Canalside Quarter, potentially seeing 366 residential dwellings, 266m² of commercial space and new public landscaping including a canal-side promenade.
Build-to-rent developer Placefirst has worked with JM Architects and DEP Landscape Architecture on a prominent site within the city. The scheme draws influence from the area's robust warehouses and industrial heritage, all formed from bricks of countless hues of red. The architects’ material strategy draws strongly on the brickness of the area, introduces metal cladding to the fourth floor and above, and uses a simple palette of materials across the site.
The site itself is currently an assortment of workshops and low-quality industrial buildings, containing a scattering of heritage buildings of note. Two of these will be converted into commercial and co-working spaces, and two – including the handsome Cheese and Butter Warehouse – will be converted into flats. One locally listed building, a three-storey rendered sliver, formerly the house of the wharf manager, has been deemed structurally unsound and will be demolished.
With many of the flats having only one bedroom and the site being close to the city centre and train station, car-parking spaces were kept to a minimum at 88 across the site. These are supplemented by 278 secure cycle spaces and two car-share vehicles for the scheme's residents. Cycle and pedestrian routes have the potential to make the site a connected part of the city, though with the entire site occupied by a rental community, time will tell how socially embedded the project becomes.
A folly, Brighton
'For the avoidance of doubt there is no building, and the proposal does not accord with the legal definition of a building as defined by the Cambridge or Oxford dictionary, or otherwise.' Unusual words, perhaps, for a consultant tasked with navigating this unusual project past angry letters of complaint from near-neighbours in the Withdean area of Brighton, but words chosen to help persuade planners that the proposed construction was less the 'Medieval Castle' a neighbour suggested, and more a garden patio with quirky decoration.
The planning application was for the 'erection of a folly', which in effect will extend an existing rear-garden terraced area with two more stepped levels edged by Medieval-esque screen walls, mimicking 'a castle with battlements, gargoyles and arched windows'. The structure, to be constructed of reclaimed Sussex Walling stone, seems to be at the centre of a battleground between warring neighbours and their acceptance of quirky style. In its defence, the client’s consultant stated, 'there are no planning grounds to resist a scheme simply because it is ornate', suggesting EN Architects’ design is of a higher quality than the off-the-peg decking from a garden store found in other similar gardens.
Letters of opposition (which the applicant mused may have mainly come from one angry neighbour) suggested the garden terrace would become a 'party pad', would detrimentally affect house prices, and would lead to the street become a buzzing tourist attraction with masses of people trying to sneak a peak.
Local ward councillors called for it to be rejected, saying that such an 'ostentatious structure' was out of keeping with a 'quiet residential area', though their colleagues on the planning committee gave it approval, with independent councillor Tony Janio reportedly casting his vote in support and saying: 'It’s bonkers! I love it.'