In 2009, the architects were appointed as designers for the new Archive and Reading Room and Rothschild Foundation complex, and began to develop the design. The chosen site was a collection of redundant farm buildings at Windmill Hill on the Waddesdon Estate, which as its name suggests, has an elevated position and huge views over the surrounding countryside.
The brief was the creation of a Reading Room and centralised store for archives relating to the Manor, its collections, the Estate and the four generations of the Rothschild family who have shaped, preserved and developed Waddesdon, including records of their philanthropic interests in Europe, Palestine and Israel. It also encompassed the establishment of a home for the Rothschild Foundation, which gives grants to a wide range of philanthropic and charitable activities beyond Waddesdon. From the outset, the complex was to be widely accessible to the public and for study, and as a centre for research, outreach and debate in fields ranging from the arts and heritage to conservation, environmental, educational and social concerns.
Setting and detailing
From the beginning, the aim was to bring the spectacular views directly into the buildings and courtyards, both defining and enhancing them. The new buildings broadly mirror the footprint of the former dairy farm, and a key element of the concept was also to echo some of the vernacular features of the farm buildings, but always with a contemporary expression, for example, in the use of metallic roofs, vertical louvred screens, oak shutters, stone and render. Two of the original red brick barns were retained. The landscaping was also conceived to complement the setting, allowing the approaches to the building to evolve out of the natural landscape, but creating a more formal aesthetic within the courtyards to mirror the contemporary architecture. Furnishings and lighting echo the subtle, minimal approach while contemporary works of art and sculpture add accents of interest.
Location: Aylesbury, UK
Architects: Stephen Marshall Architects
Client: The Alice Trust
Project year: 2009 – 2011
Photographer: Richard Bryan