CABE Facilities Management or Refurbishment winner

Winner: Daniel Connal Partnership for Wells Maltings, North Norfolk. The preservation of a 19th Century Grade II-listed building has enabled it to become a versatile community space.

Quality

The brief for Wells Maltings was to provide a first-class community centre with a new cinema and auditorium, an interactive heritage centre, gallery space, meeting rooms and a café – all while preserving and conserving the historic fabric of the maltings building.

Sensitive restoration of the existing brick and flint building took place, retaining, integrating or restoring as much as possible of the maltings’ original building material. Where preservation and restoration were not possible, materials sympathetic to the original were sourced, with bespoke replacement windows installed in keeping with the historic appearance. Replacing the traditional wind cowls was another important, visible and impactful part of the project. With the original oast cowls long gone, old photos and pictures of Wells Maltings provided clues to the design, and a specialist oast cowl construction company from Kent was commissioned to recreate replacements. The new cowls highlight the building’s original purpose, enhance its appearance and make a positive impact on the skyline of the town.

In contrast to the conservation and restoration of the original building, a striking modern extension clad in brass was designed. Stepped back from the original, it also features a traditional flint south-east façade wall, echoing the older maltings. Protecting and preserving the historically significant structure was at the forefront of this project, but the addition of a visually dazzling extension broadened the facilities on offer and highlighted the juxtaposition of traditional and new. The extension includes the Wells Heritage Centre gallery and provides a creative, imaginative and engaging community space inspired by the colourful history and residents of Wells-next-the-Sea, and moves away from the traditional museum layout. The galleries have universal appeal, with plenty of child-friendly, interactive and accessible exhibits. The heritage centre is designed to capture and engage the imagination, and is a fitting celebration of the cultural heritage of the coastal town.

Impact

The regeneration of Wells Maltings was a future-proofing project with two aims: to preserve the fabric of this 19th Century Grade II-listed maltings, while extending and adapting it to provide a versatile arts and community space for public use. 

Wells Maltings is now a first-class, year-round cultural and community facility. The rejuvenated building, dramatic extension and eye-catching wind cowls of the prominent and much-loved town landmark present a new highlight for the narrow main thoroughfare through the conservation area to the harbour.

The extension has a glazed full-height atrium creating a buffer between the two, with an expansive roof lantern flooding the space with natural light and highlighting the traditional flint wall of the original maltings. Chartered surveyors Daniel Connal Partnership (DCP) worked tirelessly with the architects and local conservation officer in developing the scheme to create the best possible facilities on this sensitive and very constrained site. It was highly commended in the Graham Allen Awards and was shortlisted in two categories at the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors East of England Awards in 2019, going on to win the Community Benefit award.

Sustainability

It is hard to overstate the importance of the maltings to Wells-next-the-Sea. The striking, visually dominant building sits at the heart of a conservation area in this popular tourist destination. It has always played an important role in sustaining the local economy – first in the barley trade, subsequently as a commercial building and ultimately as a community arts venue – but was becoming increasingly dilapidated. Wells Maltings Trust sought to preserve the historic building and create an outstanding arts and cultural centre, with a comprehensive range of facilities offering year-round activity and entertainment to ensure it remains a sustainable and relevant asset for the local community and economy. The reinvigorated and extended Wells Maltings offers shows, exhibitions, an interactive heritage centre, an ambitious youth outreach programme, a café/bar and a tourist information centre, creating a year-round draw for the town. The increased revenue for Wells Maltings ensures the economic sustainability of the venue.

Aiming to retain, integrate and restore as much of the original fabric of the building, the pantiles were removed to facilitate repairs to the timber roof structure and enable the installation of thermal and acoustic insulation, and subsequently re-laid. Materials for the extension were chosen for their longevity in a coastal environment. Ventilation in the new auditorium was achieved with a low-velocity fan system, supported by windcatchers at roof level to extract warm, stale air via the stack effect. All-new, thermally efficient glazing was installed and treated with UV film in gallery spaces to protect exhibits from damage. Water-saving features – such as low-volume cisterns and tap aerators – were incorporated, as was low-energy LED lighting throughout the building. The project was also able to address previous unsympathetic internal alterations/materials choices.

Inclusivity

It was vital that such an ambitious and potentially challenging scheme should be an inclusive community project – without the backing of the local and wider community, it would not have succeeded. DCP was involved from the outset, assisting with the completion of two successful National Lottery Heritage Fund applications, planning and preparation, discussions and consultations, designing, building, fitting and kitting out – all stages that involved input from the local community. The project management team worked alongside a wide range of people – often volunteers – who were passionate about making a difference to their community. From the outset, there was extensive consultation with residents, businesses, users of the existing building and visitors to the town. Street surveys, focus group workshops, open days and Q&A sessions were held to obtain views and gauge support for the restoration project, with the resulting feedback being overwhelmingly positive.

As well as the community space for events, the inclusion of the new tourist information centre and a vibrant café and bar are further attractions for visitors and the local community to enjoy. They also provide employment as a further economic boost. Level ground-floor access and the installation of two lifts ensures the whole Wells Maltings site is now fully accessible.

Since reopening, Wells Maltings provides more than 32 hours of regular community activities each week, with 1,200 people per week using it. Outreach with local schools has engaged with 500 young people and 50 local groups, who all helped create a tapestry on display in the foyer. In the 20 weeks after the building reopened, more than 3,000 people visited, 90 events were held and 15 new community groups paid to use it. It is a fully accessible, inclusive space and the building is being well used for its intended purpose.

Wells Maltings remains a fine historic building with a twist – it is now a shining example of old and new brought together to work effectively for the community in which it stands. The completed project is a cultural landmark building, used as a contemporary community space.

Key specifications

  • 3m x 4m self-contained Environmental Test Chamber (supplied by Temperature Applied Sciences) which can be occupied by up to three persons for extensive periods of time

  • Custom designed motion platform, with freedom of movement in three directions (designed and developed by Servotest Systems, in collaboration with University of Bath) (0.01Hz – 6HZ+, and amplitudes of up to +/- 400mm)

  • Projected 3D and 2D virtual reality (images are projected onto the walls), programmed to adjust the visual and audio sensory output according to the time of day and building height (designed and developed by Antycip Simulation, in collaboration with University of Bath)

  • Motion tracking of occupants

  • Physiological recording of human factor responses.

Environmental Control Features:

The VSimulators facility also offers precise environmental controls, including:

  • Air Temperature: 15 to 40 degrees centigrade

  • Humidity: 20% to 80%

  • Horizontal Illuminance: 50 to 2000 lux

  • Colour Temperature: 2000 to 6500 K

  • Lighting illuminance: 50-2000 Lux

  • Radiant temperature: 5 – 40 degrees centigrade.


Project participants

Architects: Chaplin Farrant

Quantity surveyors: Daniel Connal Partnership (DCP)

Project manager: Robert Dale, Senior Partner at DCP

Creation of the Wells Heritage Centre: Ugly Studios

Brass cladding installation: Varla Cladding


CABE Comments

DCP’s work on the Wells Maltings renovation and extension in Wells-next-the Sea, Norfolk is impressive. CABE Fellow Robert Dale was project manager of the team that delivered this winning building. Working with the existing brick and flint structure, the building was integrated with materials sympathetic to the original, often bespoke, to maintain its historic appearance. The space is now a source of local pride, containing a cinema, auditorium, exhibition hall, café and information centre for the community.

For more, visit bit.ly/CABEAwardWinners

Robert Dale, Senior Partner at DCP, CABE Fellow and Project Manager for the Wells Maltings redevelopment

Image Credit | Sarah Toon

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