The winners of an annual awards programme which celebrates the best building design and conservation projects in East Suffolk have been announced.
East Suffolk Council’s ‘Quality of Place Awards’ recognise the efforts of people across the district to enhance the quality of the environment, by creating high-quality designs in both the built and natural environment and helping to conserve historic buildings.
Nominations were invited during the summer and the winners, judged on quality of design and detailing, quality of workmanship, use of materials and sustainability, were chosen last month during a series of Covid-secure visits.
Cllr David Ritchie, East Suffolk’s cabinet member for Planning and Coastal Management said: “As always, we received an incredibly high standard of entries with some extremely impressive builds. The winning schemes reflect both modern building designs and historic conversions that all add to the character of our district and although more difficult to undertake during these challenging times, we are pleased to have been able to safely continue with these awards for another year.”
The winners of this year’s Quality of Place Awards are:
Design Award - joint winners
Gainsborough House, Nacton. Architect - Craig Beech, owners - Graham and Nicola Christison.
Pightle House, Ufford. Architect - Peter Wells Architects Ltd, owners - Simon Read and Ros Conway, designers – Peter Wells and Keith Webber in collaboration with Ros Conway and Simon Read, contractor - Harrison Wildon Ltd.
Design Award - Highly Commended
CEFAS, Lowestoft. Designed by Maddie Negus at AWW.
Building Conservation Award - Winner
Wingfield House, Saxmundham. Developers - Skinner & Salter Partnership, architects - Hollins Architects, surveyors - Clive Tanner and Bob Foulkes, contractors - Amma Contractors, civil and structural engineers - Stroud Associates Ltd.
Building Conservation Award – Highly Commended
Aldeburgh Moot Hall Regeneration Project - nominated by Tony Bone on behalf of Aldeburgh Museum Charitable Trust, architect/designers - Hudson Architects with Sutton Vane (lighting) and Iris Butcher (graphics), digital design and implementation - Heritage Interactive, contractor - Elmwood Projects Ltd and Worsley Woodworking.
Stanaway Farmhouse, Otley. Architect - Ed Thuell at Whitworth Architects, owners - Felix Thornley Cobbold Agricultural Trust C/O Lacy Scott & Knight, contractors – Rose Builders, quantity surveyor – Richard Sewell, structural engineer/principal designer – Nigel Wilson / Simon Wright at Andrew Firebrace Partnership.
Landscape Award - Winner
Wilderness Reserve and Heveningham Estates’ Team, Sibton Park. Architect - Argus Gathorne Hardy, run by the Wilderness Reserve and Heveningham Estates Team, owners - Jon and Lois Hunt, design team - Kim Wilkie and Argus Hardy, landscaping team - Rob and Rowan Orford – Miles Water, Guy Newton – Heveningham Estate Team.
Community Award – Winner
Westleton Village Hall. Core consulting - Alex Alexander and Tony Ingram, core fundraising - Alex Alexander; Anne ingram; Chris Wood; John Bebbington; Maddie Kerry, client procurement facilitator - Tony Ingram DArch Riba AoU, architects - OWL Architects (Simon Smeaton), quantity surveyor - Castons (Peter Dring; Simon Frost; Richard Sewell), historic building analysis - Trevor Garnham, contractors - Vickery Building and Renovation, main contract - Robert Norman.
Community Award – Highly Commended
St Michael’s Church, Beccles (Phase 2). Nomination by John Bailey – Building Committee Member, charity - the Parochial Church Council of The Ecclesiastical Parish of St. Michael’s and St Luke’s Beccles, architect - Philip Orchard from Messrs Whitworth, main contractor - M S Oakes Ltd, Chairman of St. Michael’s Building Committee – Phil Filer.
A virtual awards ceremony took place on 8 February - watch now.
There were some strong contenders for the awards this year, and the three schemes which rose to the surface presented the judges with a lot of opportunity for debate as to what constitutes ‘conservation’ of a building. It was a close-run decision between the corporate client with a large grant and an opportunity to do much needed works to help interpret an iconic building and give it a certain sustainable future with a new use, or two domestic buildings, one a timber frame requiring substantial rebuilding, so much so that one could argue that this was something other than conservation, and another which although more modest in its appearance, had clearly involved some significant challenges for the architect, who had employed pure conservation skills to enhance the best parts of a farmhouse, whilst designing a sympathetic modern extension to replace something unworthy to the original. All three schemes demonstrated flair and a concern for the original structure, even though all three showed a differing approach to the desire to retain the ‘patina’ of a heritage building which makes historic buildings so special.
After a little debate the judges were unanimous in awarding ‘highly commended’ to the internal reordering of Aldeburgh Moot Hall.
Stanaway Farmhouse in Otley and Wingfield House in Saxmundham prompted the most debate, but after some considerable discussion, the judges decided unanimously to make Wingfield House in Saxmundham the winner. They were impressed by the demonstration of the passion for the building put into the scheme by the whole building team, working collaboratively with consultants and others, and the attempt to reuse as much as possible of the remaining fabric, although in all honesty they created something rather special out of quite a lot of decayed bits and pieces which others might have given up on. The final scheme impressed the judges with the passion, the courage to have taken this on in the first place, and the concern for integrity in the selection of materials selected for the reinstatement, even if the judges had some reservations over the design of new elements incorporated and the surface finishes selected for render and roofing. Stanaway Farmhouse was a close and worthy runner up, sharing ‘Highly Commended’ with the Moot Hall.
Judges’ comments – Design category
Gainsborough House, Nacton
A well resolved handling of the mass of a substantial house to break down the scale into several elements. The brick base at ground level supports an overhanging timber clad first floor over the main living areas, a 3-storey brick tower with random spaced windows and a home office annexe with a mono pitch roof which is linked to the house via a courtyard above the garage in the brick base below.
Full advantage of a woodland site is taken with extensive glazing to the living areas. The main block is cranked to soften the impact on the garden. A projecting double height glazed brick bay to the garden provides natural light and views to a split-level entrance hallway and dining area which results in an interesting double height internal space that links with living areas on the ground floor the bedrooms above.
Careful choice of materials including brickwork with varying bonds and patterns with well detailed oak cladding and opening window panels adds to the overall quality of the building exterior. Low energy provision has been incorporated which includes a green roof, an air source heat pump and a high level of insulation.
Pightle House, Ufford
This modest sized traditional looking house reveals some subtle architectural content with a contemporary character. This is a narrow site that tapers towards the road frontage and some mains drainage runs across the plot virtue has been made from necessity which results in an interesting alignment of the house with the street frontage and neighbouring properties.
The main two storey block has a cross wing which is offset and results in two contrasting extensions at the intersection with an interesting double height space for the entrance hallway and access to both the living areas and side extensions. One extension is single storey with a pitched roof and the other is asymmetrical with a glazed facade that provides natural light and views of the garden from the studio space.
The off-white render, slate roof and matching slate hanging to the exterior of some of the upper storey walls is a welcome relief and contrast to the monotony of Suffolk red facings that exist predominantly throughout villages in the county. Internally there are some contemporary details to the staircase with a recessed handrail and recessed plinth details to ceilings and floors without skirting boards.
CEFAS Offices, Lowestoft
A new purpose designed office block is a welcome change to the Quality of Place awards. This new building provides office accommodation for up to 500 people plus a cafeteria and library for CEFAS formerly the Ministry of Agriculture & Fisheries.
The site is prominent on the seafront and required the demolition of a redundant red brick Victorian terrace which included seaside hotel. The exterior design is a combination of mottled brickwork, glazed curtain walling and profiled metal cladding with matching windows and decorative vertical metal screens. The new building sits closely to the adjoining CEFAS 1960s Brutalist laboratory block.
The H shaped plan enables a glazed 3 storey atrium which provides access to the office floors. The office floors are open plan which are carefully designed for teams off specialist scientific staff who are selected to study various maritime topics. Particular attention has been taken with heat reclaim services which mixes & treats occupant generated air with fresh air intake which reduces the energy consumption of the building. A top floor cafeteria provides fine views of the coastline.
This building represents good value for money. A good opportunity for a visitor centre to attract visitors to Lowestoft to inform the public about the work of CEFAS was precluded by the budget.
Judges’ comments – Landscape
In 2010 Jon and Lois Hunt of the Heveningham Hall Estate purchased Sibton Park House with the remaining parkland. Since then, they have pieced back the core areas of the estate and begun to bring it under a management structure based on the Heveningham Estate model.
With Kim Wilkie, a masterplan was drawn up with the result that the parkland and lake was restored, the parkland extended along the full length of ownership adjacent to the River Yox and the water meadows re-instated - this allows the flood plain to operate. And this includes a new Kim Wilkie land sculpture and pool, and a tree surgery management plan for the veteran oaks, many of which predate the park.
The aim has been to restore Sibton Park as traditional species-rich grazed parkland pasture. Recent horse paddock subdivisions and menage have been removed. Stripped topsoil will be replaced from the pond restoration and the proposed improvement works to the lake. The pasture is being managed as a mixed grazing regime of cattle with some sheep and a minimum fertiizer input.
Browsing lines have been re-established, creating low vistas across the park. Mixed grazing also provides excellent dung and associated insect fauna for birdlife and bats and has allowed the natural regeneration of more interesting grass and wildflower species.
The house sits on a raised semi-circular artificial mound with widely spaced deciduous planting framing views of the park; the trees are now mature and in prime condition. The mound is surrounded by a low painted post and rail fencing - implemented works included removal of the heavy wooden fencing and a traditional ha-ha has been put at the base of the mound, well away from the existing trees. This has reinstated the original design of the house to be freestanding at the centre of the parkland as originally intended.
Other works as shown in the 1884 survey as the Pleasure Grounds, and work to the lake which needed clearing and giving a better vista across the water to the house. We hope that the substantial investment to the estate will have secured the house and surrounding landscape as a viable and sustainable entity.
Judges' comments – Community
A scheme 10 years in gestation, and a building suffering not only from damp, decay, neglect and asbestos, but with safety and accessibility issues as well. It is a landmark Listed Building with a large hinterland and an ageing demographic, very much relied on for support, entertainment and wellbeing by the village population.
Facilities were outdated, outworn, unsafe and neglected, with their condition causing further damage to vital stored items such as village archives.
Needs were accurately identified by surveys, questionnaires and user group consultations followed by careful and caring analysis, design, and planning processes.
Public donations and the Lottery enabled the work to go ahead and resulted in the protection of an important key building in the village and the provision of: a foyer extension, proper efficient kitchen, secure, dry Parish Archive and workshop, consulting room and large community room and store.
Everyone in the village is included, local groups, health giving activities and entertainments, talks and essential community functions are all catered for and the existence of such a good facility appears to be attracting requests for use by other outside community facilities not otherwise represented in the village.
Altogether a real “sow’s ear to silk purse” journey and the future proofing of, not only an important landmark Listed Building in a key visual and social position in this lovely village, but a vital community asset.
St. Michael’s Church, Beccles
St. Michael’s Church is an active and much-loved church in a prominent position in the centre of the town overlooking the River Waveney. It is a 650-year-old Grade 1 Listed Building and this scheme was to bring it into the 21st. Century and modern life without compromising any of its splendour.
New, accessible toilets were completed 2 years ago, and the font and dais have been moved over to the more appropriate children’s area.
Rows of pews have been removed and parts of the floor have been made level in order to provide a servery and reception area containing all modern catering kitchen facilities to extend the provision of services to cover all manner of church functions. Now it is more suitable for weddings, funerals, wakes, cafe, concerts, arts and crafts exhibitions and church community social events.