February 22 2011

Adaptive Reuse of a Dovecote

Contrast is very important in architecture. Light and Dark. Mass and Void. Smooth and Rough. Old and New. Two objects will, when placed into composition, either contrast or complement one another and it is the role of the architect to define their relationship. You see, juxtaposition of elements can be used to create environments that feel edgy, energetic, open, safe, subdued, relaxing, hierarchical, egalitarian or inviting and it all depends on the way contrast is used to solve the architectural puzzle. Often times 'contrast' is completely applied, fake by any standard, but sometimes, on rare occasion, Architects are blessed with a historic artifact to compose against. The result is the most flavorful kind of architecture. Adaptive Reuse.

The Dovecote Studio project, an extension of the Aldeburgh Music campus, inserts a contemporary 'monopoly house' shaped Corten Steel structure into the shell of a 19th century brick dovecote building. The Corten Steel, oxidized to produce a weather resistant barrier against further rusting of the steel, is welded together to form a continuous weather barrier extending from the ridge of the roof to the facade to the foundation walls.

A lack of overhangs and gutters along with flush mounted glazing gives the structure a very taught contemporary feel which stands is significant contrast to the overgrown, crumbling, brick facade of the original dovecote. Notably the interior is lit by just a few strategically placed openings including a north facing skylight over the mezzanine. Interiors are finished out in raw spruce plywood to help emphasize the 'shell vs interior' skin concept of the project.

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Interestingly, just like the Adaptive Reuse of a Pigsty, the new structure was prefabricated offsite and craned into final position inside the dovecote.

With regard to the existing structure, Architects Haworth Tompkin note that:

"[...] only the minimum necessary brickwork repairs were carried out to stabilise the existing ruin prior to the new structure being inserted. Decaying existing windows were left alone and vegetation growing over the dovecote was protected to allow it to continue a natural process of ageing and decay." -Haworth Tompkin Architects

It is worth mentioning that a Dovecote is a small round or square building designed to house pigeons or doves which were major a source of food (eggs and meat) in Western Europe for many centuries. Almost forgotten today, this building typology was so important to people in the 19th century that it was considered a royal privilege to own and operate one.

I do believe it would be a privilege to be invited inside this modern incarnation of the dovecote for an afternoon of contemplation and study.

Remarkably, this Studio is not alone. It is actually located in a larger adaptive reuse project called at Snape Maltings which lies just outside Suffolk, England, and includes a number of extraordinary adaptive reuse projects. This project is a great example of how existing structures, regardless of their historic significance, condition, original purpose, and aesthetic can be re-purposed into buildings relevant for contemporary needs. I hope to see more like this in the coming years, especially if they can save historic buildings and make them look sexy at the same time.

I should mention that Ziger/Snead will attempt something similar, perhaps not as grand, for our own renovation of a 19th century Carriage House on the grounds of the Center for Parks and People at Auchentoroly Terrace. More on that in the coming months.

For more information please visit Haworth Tompkins' project page or read the original post via OneOffMag.

posted by Jonas Risen

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February 22nd, 2011 at 10:23 AM


Thanks for posting-this is beautiful.

February 23rd, 2011 at 3:19 PM


Yes, absolutely thanks for sharing this great example of reuse!