This project is the second phase of a series of regeneration projects looking to revitalise the historic former Great Western Railway Carriage Works. The first phase involved the conversion of two sheds (Units 3 & 5) into a new managed workspace for creative small businesses and start-ups. This second phase converted one shed (Unit 11) into a new teaching space for the Royal Agricultural University (RAU) called the Cultural Heritage Institute (CHI).
The refurbishment of Unit 11 was completed in 2019. At the Upper Ground Floor a new glazed entrance was formed, providing direct access from the car park, and a free-standing mezzanine structure installed creating seminar rooms, a library, offices and flexible teaching spaces over two floors. The new mezzanine is an open steel-framed structure with glazed partitions, plywood panelling with perforated timber balustrades detailed to match the architectural devices establish in the previous construction phases. At the heart of the mezzanine is a stepped lecture space. This is seen as the focal point as it will be a point of congregation when lectures are on and an informal space for students to socialise when not in use.
This project also involved extensive repair of the existing structure. At the Lower Ground Floor the original brick jack-arched ceiling had failed and was extensively propped. In order to bring this space back into use, the original brick structure was demolished, supporting cast-iron columns and v-beams removed and new foundations formed. The original cast-iron structure was then reinstated and a new reinforced concrete floor formed to match the profile of the jack-arched ceiling.
The preservation and reuse of historic materials was a key driver in the project. A unique feature of the original building is the tessellated timber block flooring which was relaid once the mezzanine and structural repair works were completed. Similarly, the pattern of the perforations on the mezzanine balustrade was inspired by cast-iron floor grates found on the site which have been retained at the Lower Ground Floor along with the original blue brick pavers.
Team: P3R (M&E) / Alan Baxters (Structures) / Calford Seaden (Quantity Surveyor)
"The completion of the Royal Agricultural University’s Cultural Heritage Institute is fantastic news and a key milestone in the regeneration of Brunel’s Carriage Works, one of Swindon’s most iconic heritage assets."