The invisible architect

JCA Team:
Chris Lawler
Project Design Team:
Johnston Cave Associates (Architects)
Project type:

Repair, refurbishment & extension

Project year: 2012

Our clients’ Grade II* manor house has always been known to students of medieval architecture. 

It was illustrated in Lysons’ 1806 Magna Britannia, by Turner in his 1851 Domestic Architecture and in Margaret Wood’s Norman Domestic Architecture of 1935 as it’s main hall is Norman - dating to 1210. 

It was therefore with some trepidation that we approached our clients’ request to build a two story extension as well as to remodel the kitchen, bedrooms, various passages and attic.

As conservation architects with extensive experience of working with medieval churches and other old buildings, we are well acquainted with the pitfalls and challenges of integrating modern facilities into ancient buildings. It’s a matter of having sympathy for and a clear understanding of old construction techniques, methods and materials; their strengths and benefits, but also their limitations and how best to repair and integrate with them. 

All too often a modern repair simply worsen’s a problem with the use of inappropriate materials and crude workmanship - often with the best intentions. 

Our background in conservation also helped to reassure not just the local planners that we knew what we were doing, but also the interested heritage groups and so the plans were approved.

With all systems go we set about the task with the care and attention we had promised. No medieval structure was compromised and we restricted our work to more recent changes - principally those of the 20th and 21st century modifications. In doing so we were able to reuse much of the ancient material these builders had incorporated into their work such as door jams and miscellaneous stonework which made for our seamless alterations.

So much so that that when finished, what structure was new, looked like it had always been a part of the existing building.

Though superficially it appeared that JCA and our client didn’t have much to show for our work, but we really did have a lot to show; the kind of seamless understated architecture where modern facilities are incorporated into the old and which we are most proud of.