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building study

Rodney Melville & Partners' approach to all projects starts with an assessment of the historic value and significance of the building or site. Compton Verney was of particular interest in that significant parts of the building had fallen into disrepair during the latter half of the 20th century. During this period the building was first unoccupied - in which time the lead was stolen from the principal valley above the centre of the house, from the portico and stair towers - and then altered in preparation for conversion to a new commercial use.

Phase one, in which the client's brief was conversion of a country house to gallery use, involved conservative repair to the external envelope of the house and the interiors of the greater part of the ground floor and the north wing first floor.Work to the interior included repairs to the Adam ceiling with its Victorian cornice, much of which had collapsed after the theft of the lead, and the reinstatement of the Adam principal doorway between the Great Hall and Salon on the west side. The latter was put in hand after careful research, consideration of the historic evidence and the importance of reinstating the relationship between these two significant rooms, both historically and for the future use as a gallery relative to the value of the Victorian alterations. The polychrome ceiling, a Victorian treatment of Adam's design, the capitals to the scagliola columns and the gilded Zucci frames in the Great Hall were decorated to match the pale grey colour scheme adopted throughout, using distemper, which may be easily removed in the future.

The assessment of value and significance during phase one assisted the design development of the scheme as a whole, including essential new interventions by Stanton Williams such as the contemporary staircases.

In phase two the same process aided development of the 'room within a room' approach, which retains the remnants of historic internal fittings within a modern gallery setting, and the insertion of air conditioning and security requirements essential to allow loans from other galleries.

Graham Weekes, Rodney Melville & Partners

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