Project
Rothschild Foundation Archive

Location
Aylesbury, United Kingdom

Completed
2011

Architect
Stephen Marshall Architects
Type
Museums and Exhibitions

Discipline
Architecture + Environment




Speirs + Major has completed work on a new archive and research centre for the Rothschild Foundation, designed by Stephen Marshall Architects.

The building, which recently won an RIBA Award, is situated on the crest of a hill on the Waddesdon Estate in England and is home to the Rothschild charity’s offices and archives.

Built on the site of a former dairy farm, the architects have created a series of elegant, low-level buildings around two courtyard gardens. Speirs + Major worked closely with the architects to reveal key areas of the building and landscape.

The design of the Archive is closely connected to the name of the site, Windmill Hill. As one of the few elevated vantage points in the area, the Hill offers unrivalled views of the surrounding countryside. The buildings are arranged to bring those views into the building and courtyard.

Outdoors, light is used sparingly – with low-level lighting emanating from cracks and fissures in the landscape to guide visitors through the dark while preserving the splendid natural views.

Inside the main archive building, an oak gridshell roof structure creates a vast reading room overlooking one of the courtyards. To preserve the integrity of the roof design, Speirs + Major designed custom downlights to fit the geometric wooden grid.

The timber grid shell is softly uplit in warm white light from concealed LED sources mounted above the book stacks, while the bookshelves are illuminated from neatly concealed slots in the timber soffit.

A key demand was for the spaces to be flexible. Selectable light scenes allow the spaces to be modulated for various purposes – for reading, conferences and after-dinner events.

The intention is for Windmill Hill to become a centre for study and research in the fields that Waddesdon represents: the arts, heritage, culture, conservation, the environment and horticulture. The building is open to the public by appointment and provides access to one of the best family collections in Europe.

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