A refurbished chapel, with a bold yet referential extension, creates a welcoming space for meetings, concerts or just quiet contemplation at the heart of the University of Winchester
In 2015 the University of Winchester commissioned Design Engine Architects to renovate and extend the university’s Victorian chapel, which was originally built in 1880 and extended in 1927.
As well as the complete restoration of its internal and external fabric, the brief for the £800,000 project was for an extension to form both a small side chapel, and social and meeting space.
The interior walls and timber ceiling to the original Gothic Revival chapel have been completely renovated, with the original tiled frieze and angels set on the eastern wall restored behind the reinstated chancel steps. Complementing this, new stone and oak floors, furnture and fittings – including a new altar and font utilising locally sourced Purbeck limestone, and bespoke oak pews and lectern designed with Luke Hughes – have been introduced, alongside new heating and lighting.
The extension is located to the north of the main chapel and has a timber frame: a series of primary wall and roof trusses, each one different, creating a changing form that is moulded to the site constraints. The pitch of its roof mirrors that of the original building, but with a ridge that oversails the existing eaves line, creating a clerestory window to provide both light and ventilation at high level.
Externally, the extension’s form is clad with perforated aluminium panels, anodised in a highly reflective gold finish, giving it a rich textural surface that folds continuously over both roof and wall.
The brief from the university was to ’create a jewel’ in the centre of the campus, restoring and enhancing the original building as a spiritual and cultural destination. It included the renovation of the original Gothic Revival building, a new font and altar and a side-chapel extension.
The new side-chapel was conceived as a quiet and peaceful place, in contrast to the original chapel that is often used for music and performance.
It took its inspiration from a reliquary box, the metalwork casket commonly used in medieval times to preserve and deify the remains of saints. These boxes often resembled a miniature house and the lavish decoration of gold and jewels expressed the sacred nature of its contents.
The geometry of the side-chapel results from its need to be flexed in form, to ease movement around its narrow perimeter and to maximise light into the restricted space to the north.
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Source: Design Engine Architects
Its folded pitched form has been developed to have empathy with its Gothic Revival host, encompassed in a diaphanous, golden textural surface that wraps continuously around both roof and wall, allowing the building to be interpreted at different distances and scales. The pattern is derived from the geometry of the Gothic tracery on the original building and its transparency has allowed us to moderate how coloured light from the windows penetrates the surface.
To reinforce the sense of greeting, welcome and orientation, the university was keen to improve visibility into the chapel from the south door. Clearly visible through a glass-fronted lobby, the font is placed on a new stone cross aisle, directly on this north-south axis.
The font basin is a section of a sphere, a reference to ’light of the world’ and is formed from polished stainless steel to reflect dappled light on to surrounding surfaces.
The font base is made from locally sourced Purbeck limestone, where the fossils within the stone surface are revealed through the polishing process. To provide an ethereal quality, the illuminated base gives the illusion that this heavy stone piece is floating and touching the ground lightly.
The brief for the altar required a solution that was rooted and founded within the fabric of the original chapel, making a connection to the foundation of the institution, as well as suggesting its growth into the future.
The altar’s elliptical section grows from the newly formed stone chancel floor, its seven horizontal parts representing the seven 25-year time periods extending from 1840, when the university was founded, to its anniversary celebrations in 2015.
The existing chapel has been extensively refurbished with new timber floor, heating lighting and AV.
David Gausden, director, Design Engine Architects
Start on site May 2015
Completion November 2016
Gross internal floor area 210m²
Form of contract Traditional
Construction cost £800,000
Architect Design Engine Architects
Client University of Winchester
Structural engineer Paul Tanner Associates
M&E consultant Robert Cartwright Design
Quantity surveyor Evolution 5
Lighting consultant Chris Reading & Associates
Main contractor R.V. Dart