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THE ARCHITECTS’ OFFICES BATH formerly the Bath Brewery by Anthony Williams and Partners
As mentioned above, one of the companies taken over by the Bristol Brewery Georges was the Bath Brewery. In this article Architects Feilden Clegg Design describe how they have converted a Grade II listed brewery into five office suites while retaining one as a showpiece for themselves.
Any client about to commission an architect should insist on visiting one or more of his completed works. If the building visited is also the architect’s own house or office, so much the better - the architect’s work is likely to be least inhibited. Certainly the conversion of Bath Brewery highlights the whole philosophy of Feilden Clegg Design, the directors of which are also directors of Paragon Properties and Wraxall Builders. The development suggests that those concerned were not only highly sensitive designers but also men of property and practical builders.
The brewery lies on the outskirts of Bath in a rural setting off the London Road, and looks down on to a toll bridge over the River Avon and up the valley towards the city. It is no minor refurbishment, but a full blooded :conversion of a 19th-century Grade II listed building, one that respects the fabric of the old building and renovates it in the simplest and most practical manner. But when new elements are demanded for its new uses, these are the most modern and technically proficient available. The effect is to introduce light and air into the depth of the building and to balance the solidity of the old stone with precise and elegant new building components. The suspended stair in the seven-storey tower is the outstanding example, but there are two other components of similar grace: the glass entrance canopy and the gantry or balcony at the top of the tower. Throughout the architects’ offices is a range of component furniture that alone would warrant a dossier devoted to its design and production.
The conversion provides five self-contained office suites varying in character and in size from 125 m2 to 630 m2 . The latter is on two floors connected by an open stair well that brings light into the heart of the lower floor.
When we first set about working on Bath Brewery, we spent some time defining the strengths of the building. We valued its solidity and its unpretentiousness. We also liked the fact that it grew out of the ground, that its character changed from a smaller-scale and darker north elevation to a larger- scale south elevation which seemed to suggest more openness to light and view. And we liked the contrast between the stone building and the timber louvred section which housed the maltings for the brewery.
We felt it was important to avoid the temptation of too many architectural statements in the brewery’s commercial adaptation and re-use: only three elements provide external evidence of change in this building. We rebuilt a gantry/balcony on the top floor of the tower in memory of what was there previously. Another balcony runs full width along the south elevation, forming an outside space to the lower offices and disguising the service spaces and car park entrance below.
Finally, the main entrance canopy projects over the front door and sideways to announce the entrance to the road. It takes the form of a structural glass truss which uses a ridge-and-furrow system of gutters to deflect the water away from the building. The structural glass plates are held together with stainless steel threaded rods, the whole assembly being suspended from floor beams which cantilever out of the building.
Then, of course, there was the tower which rises seven storeys from the middle of the building and acts as an orientating element both from inside and out. We designed the main staircase suspended within this space so as to bring light through the building and provide an easily understandable link between all floors: this was one of the key early decisions. The second major planning initiative was to retain the existing door opening in the north elevation and form a curved link to the stair. Both of these decisions went through several configurations before they became settled, but once we had achieved them everything else seemed to fall into place . The five main office suites were then all accessible from the main entrance floor (half-way up the building) or from one flight up or down from the main entrance.
Where old window openings were unblocked, replica single-glazed windows were used, and high performance double-glazed windows were installed wherever new window openings were formed. Similarly, all rooflights were double-glazed.