Beech Architects retain abandoned Suffolk windmill

 | 11.00 – 10 September 2017 |

An abandoned windmill in a beautiful countryside of England’s Suffolk has been brought back to life by Beech Architects.

The Windmill located in Suffolk lies in close proximity to historic Lavenham now boasts a unique tourist accommodation.

A drone view of renovated Windmill

The renovation of the crumbling windmill was once a regional landmark has been given a contemporary makeover by Beech Architects.

Renovation of historical landmarks is always a daunting task. The windmill which had lost its cap and sails remained unused for many years before the current owners took up the challenge of restoring its glory.

Beech Architects had this task accomplished by adding zinc and cross laminated timber pod cap offering as viewing gallery amongst other renovations. The design objective for the architects was to reinstate the lost cap structure and restore the crumbling windmill to its former landmark status via contemporary design interventions. The multi curving pod, is a creation from skillful craftsman, precision cut engineered frames apart from the contribution of owner, contractor and suppliers.

From the architect –

The pod covering is a standing seam Zinc system skillfully and painstakingly applied by patient craftsman with every seam bespoke to the multi-curving form. A Kerto timber rib system was precisely machine cut from sheets of stressed ply to form the unique shape; this engineering achievement is clearly expressed on the inside of the pod.

Kerto timber framing

The pod was not only built to add back the lost cap, but was also an opportunity to form a crow’s nest viewing gallery and additional living accommodation at high level exploiting the fantastic panoramic views, sunrise and sunset and also an external private space to relax.

Interior View of pod

The whole project team is pleased to be part of the continued life of the landmark structure, which would otherwise have remained derelict without significant investment and potentially a piece of history would have been lost. The completed structure now provides unique holiday accommodation with panoramic views of the Suffolk landscape via the 4th storey pod and balcony and spiraling glazed openings

Before renovation works

After renovation works

Challenges –

Dated to be built in 1891, the structure is composed of solid brick conical walls with tar coating posing challenge for additional new structural and functional features.

As per the architects, the biggest challenge apart from this was the ‘reinstatement of the cap or pod which was not intended as a faithful historic reconstruction but rather as contemporary and innovative interpretation which would also serve as the principal living and viewing platform; a form which would compliment the mill but also provide local distinctiveness and as a landmark of its renovation’

So the cap was envisioned to be an inverted boat structure with wooden beams forming its internal skeleton. Kerto cross laminated ply used as ribs took care of the strength and stability required to withstand wind speeds of this 4 storey accommodation. These curved ribs added a sculptural and elegant form to the pod giving it a striking landmark symbol.

Interior spaces –

To facilitate circulation and maximise usable space, each floor is rotated from the one below to accommodate an access point. Radial staircase flows around the inside of the mill connecting each floor.

Floor plans, Elevation and Sections – Suffolk Windmill

The interior layout has kitchen and dining space on the ground floor, whereas the 1st and 3rd floors are converted into bedrooms.

Bathroom on the 2nd floor

The 2nd floor houses the bathroom and the top 4th floor – the pod has a living room with a viewing balcony All the fittings and furniture were tailor-made to accommodate the curved layout. In order to safeguard insulation and weathering of the existing structure, the architects worked closely with insulation manufactures. Tapered insulation panels were applied externally to visually retain the brick within the accommodation, protect the soft brick from further erosion and exploit the thermal mass of the structure for heating and thermal comfort purposes. The new entrance at the ground level to the mill is via a small zinc covered projection which acts as a porch.

Entry towards the Windmill

The glazed opening provides visual sights of the beautiful gardens. The restored historical windmill is now a contemporary piece of architecture for future generations to look upon and enjoy.


All Image Credits -Beech Architects

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