Our Chedworth Roman Villa project for the National Trust seized the opportunity to offer an entirely new experience of one of the most important stretches of Roman mosaics in Northern Europe. It involved replacing the existing and inadequate Victorian shelters with a new conservation and visitor shelter built directly upon the west range of this internationally significant Roman villa in rural Gloucestershire, England.
The formal and material approach to the new building was inspired by the strength of the rural setting, the need to provide a technically stable environment for the beautiful mosaics and remains of the villa, along with a conviction that the archaeological heritage should remain the ‘star of the show’. The main aim of the design was to enhance the legibility of the many layers of this Roman and Victorian site by adding a discreet but confidently 21st century backdrop to the archaeology.
A fully reversible, lightweight wrapped timber volume sits on existing Roman foundations expressing the scale of the former villa. Its timber skin allows the building to weather peacefully in to the landscape, whilst the suspended walkways allow unprecedented access for visitors to walk only inches above the floor mosaics in the footsteps of their Roman ancestors.
The building embraces its remote ‘off grid’ location. Rainwater is collected and re-used, ventilation is passively provided and heating is generated through air source heat pump technology. Sliding external shutters shift and adapt to exclude direct sunlight on the mosaics. This gives the building a dynamic quality as if outwardly breathing and responding to its environment.
We are thrilled that the project won an RIBA National Award in 2013, and is currently short listed for a World Architecture Award.