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Gunpowder Mill, Waltham Abbey, Essex, United Kingdom

Friday 30 Oct 2009

An industrial revolution

image by Dennis Gilbert 
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Award Entry

PTEa transformation of Victorian Gunpowder Mills for Hill Group 

The brief was to convert, refurbish and extend a number of early 20th century industrial and listed buildings to provide the client with flexible office space, including their own headquarters. The site is historically important, as since 1735 it was one of the largest gunpowder works in Britain. It lies on the outskirts of London in a natural woodland and river habitat.

The buildings were unoccupied and deteriorating and substantial work was needed to repair the fabric, yet as far as possible the ethos was sensitive restoration; a light and gentle touch. One bay of the 3-bay building was kept as a single volume creating a heart for the scheme: a place of arrival, connection and meeting. New floors are separate from the external walls to maximise light and facilitate natural ventilation.

All new steelwork is visible in a gesture to the simple detailing of original industrial buildings. New and old steelwork is expressed in two colours. New interventions remain subservient to the experience of the old. Planar glass is used to bring the required light touch to junctions between new and old, carefully cut into existing brickwork. New internal finishes to the offices reflect a contemporary office environment, but subtle references are left of the original industrial fabric by exposing the brick window arches.

New extensions are scaled to allow existing buildings and landscape to remain the dominant feature of the site. Detailing is contemporary, with a predominance of glazing effecting a close relationship between the new, historic and rich natural setting. The use of galvanised steel and timber in the external structures reflects the industrial past of the site. Level access is provided by a lightweight boardwalk spanning across the reed beds to minimise disruption to the natural established ecology.

Formerly part of the Waltham Abbey Royal Gunpowder Mills Heritage Attraction and bordering two Sites of Special Scientific Interest, the preservation of the buildings and landscape improvements, plus the achievement of a new and viable use for the site, has enhanced the value of the greater site as a Heritage Attraction.

The scheme incorporates natural ventilation, a Building Management System, Solar Shading, Photovoltaics, Extensive Green Roofs and Sustainable Drainage Systems.

In a high risk flood zone surrounded by watercourses, initially development options appeared very limited. Architect, environmental consultant and the Environment Agency worked closely to establish feasibility before exploring options for achieving optimal development potential whilst satisfying statutory requirements.

Time was spent evolving a specific brief, through analysis of the clients current working practices and discussing future aspirations for the company and their new headquarters. This enabled the design to evolve in line with the company ethos, whilst offer new and flexible solutions.

Key Facts

Status Completed
Value 6(m€)
Were you involved in this scheme?
Pollard Thomas Edwards architects

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