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BUILDING REVIEW

Jestico + Whiles and Julian Harrap complete Pitzhanger Manor restoration

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The £12 million, three-year project by Jestico + Whiles and Julian Harrap Architects to restore Pitzhanger Manor in Ealing has launched with a solo exhibition by Anish Kapoor

After a painstaking restoration, Pitzhanger Manor, the Grade-I listed villa of visionary architect John Soane, has reopened to the public. 

Soane constructed and adapted the building for himself between 1800 and 1804 from an earlier house by George Dance, and the main house has been returned to his conception as much as possible, based on archival and structural evidence. 

’We wanted to get back to Soane’s vision with all the nuances and subtlety of his architecture,’ says Jestico + Whiles director Heinz Richardson.

Breakfast room andy stagg

Breakfast room andy stagg

Breakfast room

The work involved major demolition of later Victorian and Edwardian wings, as well as the recreation of key elements of Soane’s original design, including a conservatory and roof lantern, their design in large part based on the study of Soane’s archives and drawings held at the Sir John Soane’s Museum. Important, too, was the evidence gleaned on site from careful peeling back layers of decoration, aiding in the sourcing of the original colours and marbling effects used.

’The whole process was a bit like a forensic investigation,’ says Julian Harrap, whose practice led on on the conservation elements of the work, having previously also worked on the restoration of the Sir John Soane’s Museum: ’It has been a long process of developing a vocabulary, building on and judging the evidence and making decisions, indeed making architecture, from the information available.’

’Julian knows more about Soane than I think Soane did himself,’ says Richardson. 

Together with the house, which for a long time was Ealing’s public library, the adjoining gallery, originally a 1930s municipal lending library, has been transformed into a 225m² exhibition space, which has opened with an exhibition by contemporary British artist Anish Kapoor. ’I have always loved Soane’s work,’ says Kapoor. ’While I didn’t set out to make an exhibition that was Soanian, I certainly let a conversation happen.’

As part of this, what Kapoor describes as ’idioms’ in Soane’s work, such as his ’Turneresque use of amber light’ and the concave forms of ceilings and mouldings are picked up in some of the mirror pieces he is showing. As well as restoration of the gallery spaces, a new basement accessible by a new lift and stair has been constructed, containing toilets, preparatory exhibition spaces and a plant room.

Dsc 8096

Dsc 8096

Source: Anish Kapoor, courtesy of Lisson Gallery

The restored villa and gallery join other earlier completed elements of the project, including a new-build café, completed by Jestico + Whiles in mid-2018, and the restoration to its original planting of the adjoining grounds of Walpole Park and the forecourt, led by J&L Gibbons. 

The villa now exhibits the theatricality typical of Soane’s work. Externally, the demolition of a two-storey wing to the north means the original oblique entrance view of the relatively vertical block of the villa, with its frontage of engaged columns, has been restored – a view intended by Soane to recall the Arch of Constantine in Rome. 

Internally too the restoration has brought back the vivid sense of colour that animated Soane’s architecture, in addition to the spatial and lighting effects he is famous for. This was a house designed primarily for entertaining and for impressing friends and potential clients alike. It was a house as a statement of Soane’s talent but also of his new-found wealth: intended to cement his status and that of his family – and for his sons to inherit.

Library angelo hornak

Library angelo hornak

Source: Angelo Hornak

Library

In the event, Soane fell out with his sons and, with his wife feeling isolated in the new house away from central London, they both decided in 1810 to move back to live permanently at what has since become the Sir John Soane’s Museum on Lincoln’s Inn Fields. Given the amount of architectural inventiveness already displayed in the villa and Soane’s later endless tinkering with the rooms at Lincoln’s Inn Fields, one can only speculate on what further plans he might have implemented at Pitzhanger Manor – there is a fascinating sketch for a two-storey conservatory, among other things.

This is a masterly restoration and recreation, with the spaces only feeling slightly undercooked due to the objects, furniture and ancient artefacts around which Soane designed them having returned with him to Lincoln’s Inn Fields. So the final animating layer of the architecture is, sadly, still missing, this early personal Gesamtkunstwerk, exceptionally sensitively restored, replaced by the one that is now the Sir John Soane’s Museum.

Conservatory andy stagg

Conservatory andy stagg

Source: Andy Stagg

Conservatory

Architect’s view 

Pitzhanger Manor is a once-in-a-lifetime project. For us it presented the opportunity to peel back many layers to reveal Soane’s life and his architecture – its originality and innovation. We have worked with the Trust to create a new cultural landmark for West London and look forward to enjoying contemporary art and the modern pavilion café in this spectacular setting.

For us Pitzhanger Manor epitomises the benefits of collaboration, the importance of deep research and analysis to make an informed case for change. We have learned so much from our 10 years at Pitzhanger and look forward to the world of Soane opening up to a modern audience through a mix of heritage and contemporary interpretation.

Heinz Richardson, director, Jestico + Whiles

As architects to the Sir John Soane’s Museum for three decades, it was fascinating to understand how Soane developed many design ideas between 1792 and 1812 during construction of his homes at Lincoln’s Inn Fields and Pitzhanger Manor. Our restoration works on site revealed Soane’s restless mind as he continued to alter and remodel Pitzhanger Manor during his 10 years of ownership; a privileged insight.

Judy Allen, project associate, Julian Harrap Architects

Phm 06 18 017

Phm 06 18 017

Source: Andy Stagg

Stairway hall

Client’s view

We are delighted to reveal – for the first time in over 150 years – Pitzhanger Manor as designed by Soane, bringing this building back to life to engage and inspire visitors. Anish Kapoor’s exhibition will enable the public to look at Soane and his influence in a new light. We look forward to establishing Pitzhanger as an inspiring destination for heritage, culture and art.

Clare Gough, director of Pitzhanger Manor & Gallery Trust

Pitzhanger Manor is the crown jewel of Ealing’s heritage. This ambitious restoration project is realising the building’s full historical impact by returning it to Soane’s original vision of a villa in a beautiful landscape. We are proud to have initiated and supported this transformational project, which is at the heart of plans to build on our fantastic cultural heritage and ensure Ealing is a great destination for tourists and visitors from near and far.

Julian Bell, councillor, Ealing Council

Section pr long

Section pr long

Source: Jestico + Whiles

Long section

Project data

Completion March 2019
Gross internal floor area 1,640m² 
Form of contract Traditional SBC XQ2011 
Construction cost £9.3 million (inc. manor £4,352,000; gallery £2,475,000; café £1,335,000)
Construction cost per m² (manor £5,689 sqm; gallery £4,342 sqm; café £4,377 sqm)
Architect / lead consultant Jestico + Whiles
Conservation architect / heritage consultant Julian Harrap Architects
Client Pitzhanger Manor & Gallery Trust and Ealing Council
Landscape consultant J&L Gibbons
Structural engineer Ellis & Moore
M&E consultant King Shaw Associates
Quantity surveyor / CDM co-ordinator Artelia UK 
Heritage quantity surveyor D R Nolans & Co 
Construction project manager Huntley Cartwright 
Interpretation project manager Focus Consultants 
Lighting designer Sutton Vane Associates 
Fire consultant The Fire Surgery 
Catering consultant Kendrick Hobbs 
Access consultant David Bonnett Associates 
Archaeologist MOLA 
Measured building survey The Downland Partnership 
Building fabric surveys Hutton and Rostron 
Security consultant Instrom 
Historic paint research Hare & Humphreys 
Main contractor Quinn London 

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