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Ditchling Museum of Art + Craft

Ditchling Museum of Art + Craft

Arnold Laver Gold Award & Existing Buildings Winner 2014

Client: Ditchling Museum of Art + Craft
Architect: Adam Richards Architects
Structural Engineer: Price & Myers
Main contractor: Westridge Construction Limited
Joinery/Wood Supplier: KLH UK
Wood species: Spruce cross-laminated timber, English and reclaimed Oak
M&E Engineer: Bailey Gomm
Construction manager: Jackson Coles LLP
Quantity Surveyor: Synergy Construction and Property

Adam Richards Architects’ Ditchling Museum of Art + Craft engages in a poetic and critical dialogue with its rural site and its history, and with the museum’s unique collection of works by Eric Gill and his followers. The architects developed designs at every level, from formulating the site strategy to the detailed displays of the collection. Involving careful conservation of a listed 18th century timber-framed Cart Lodge, the refurbishment of the museum’s wood-lined main galleries in the old village school, and the design of innovative new timber structures using the latest cross laminated timber technology, the project shows an intense level of attention to detail, yet was achieved for only £1,900/m2.

In working with the museum’s disparate range of existing buildings the architect had to find thoughtful, well-researched innovative solutions to upgrading their fabric and functions whilst highlighting their original aesthetics. They also chose to explore the poetic possibilities opened-up by designing new buildings that not only complement the old, but that enhance our understanding of the existing buildings, by reflecting the principles of their construction using contemporary technology.

Drawn to the village in the early 20th century, the artists whose work is celebrated in the museum were inspired by the village’s seemingly timeless traditions of craftsmanship – particularly in wood – that are exemplified by the Cart Lodge. The restored 18th century oak structure of the building is re-cast as the museum’s ‘first exhibit’, and on arrival its atmosphere sets the tone for visitors’ encounter with craft, place and the idea of the past in the spaces to come. The elements of this structure are numbered, as if in a technical drawing, placing visitors inside the exhibit.

The new zinc-clad and tile-clad buildings are constructed from cross laminated timber panels sitting on a base of glazed black brick. The principle of a timber structure sitting on a masonry base is a contemporary re-interpretation of the Cart Lodge itself. The CLT panels are exposed internally and have a special white dye treatment, which in combination with the black bricks and black zinc cladding, alludes to the black and white print collections of the museum. The thickness and size of the CLT panels are celebrated and detailed in ways that express the structural forces at play. Every opening through the CLT reveals its thickness, whilst hand-crafted chamfers to the edges delineate each panel.

The CLT panels have also been used to create a contemporary version of a ‘cabinet of curiosities’, acting as an introduction to the collection, the village and its history. A large panel, acting as a stair balustrade, sits like an exhibit itself on top of a black brick plinth, helping tell the story of the building. In the Cart Lodge the ticket desk, cafe bar and even shop display units are constructed from off-cuts of CLT, sitting together under the canopy of the Cart-Lodge’s oak structure: old and new timber technology encountered side-by-side.