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GUNPOWDER MILL, ESSEX
Wednesday 21 Dec 2011
An extraordinary fusion of landscape, architecture and industrial archaeology
Gunpowder Mill is more than just a refurbishment; it represents a complete re-imagining of an organisation, the site and its original buildings into a complementary whole.
The project showcases how old and new work together, creating a new life for redundant buildings with facilities to meet twenty-first century needs. The complex of buildings comprises the Power House, Water Tower and Grade 2 listed Lodge. By the 1980s these buildings were unoccupied and in a state of considerable disrepair. The brief was for a high quality office space, both bespoke for the client and general office space to let in the medium term and ultimately provide for future expansion. Although substantial work was needed to repair and restore the fabric of the buildings, the overriding ethos was a light and gentle touch.
The imposing triple gabled Power House is made up of the Boiler and Engine Houses. The Engine House has been retained as one volume. It is the place of arrival. Traces of its former use including the original crane structure have been left as visual history. A staircase and bridges connect new and old. A boardroom and meeting spaces animate the space but remain subservient to the experience and drama of the full height of the original hall. In the adjacent Boiler House, two new floors have been inserted. These are held back from the external walls to maximise light to all floors and facilitate the natural flow of air.
The new building links the Power House with the Water Tower. The detailing and materials are contemporary. The Lodge has been restored and returned to its former simplicity with the removal of unsympathetic later additions. It has a new extension connected with a single storey glazed link. Building works were completed in July 2009. Gunpowder Mill provides a paradigm for the contractors and developers who work within it – of the value of high quality design and construction, of the judicious use of materials and exhilarating qualities of light, of seeing out into a bucolic landscape and a joy to come to work in.
Last word to Hill Partnerships as owners and occupiers “Not only is the new building itself an uplifting place it has provided an inspiration to help the Company grow and flourish”.