The Devizes Assize Court Trust is recruiting a design team to create an £8 million home for the Wiltshire Museum
The architect-led team will repair, conserve and extend the Grade II*-listed former Assize Court on Northgate Street, which has been abandoned for more than three decades and is now on Historic England’s Buildings at Risk register.
The 1,346m² project will transform the Neoclassical landmark into a ‘world-class’ venue for the Wiltshire Museum which focuses on the archaeology, art, history and natural history of the ancient South West of England county.
In its brief, the newly created Devizes Assize Court Trust says it ‘aims to rescue and restore this fine building to an exemplary standard so that it will once again become an important part of the cultural and economic life of Devizes.
‘For the Wiltshire Museum, this will be a transformational project, matching the importance of its internationally significant designated collections with a world-class building to create a whole new visitor experience to engage and inspire a wider audience and to enhance enjoyment, education and learning.’
The museum, founded in 1853, is currently based inside a former grammar school and two Georgian houses on Devizes’ Long Street but the venue has limited access and has run out of storage space.
Major landmarks close to the TH Wyatt-designed 1835 Assize Court include the Kennet and Avon Canal connecting Reading to Bristol, the Grade II-listed Wadworth Brewery, and the former White Lion Pub.
The winning team must include an architect, cost consultant, structural engineer, and mechanical engineer. Bidders must hold employer’s liability insurance of £5 million, professional indemnity insurance of £2 million, and public liability insurance of £10 million.
Applications will be evaluated 70 per cent on quality and 30 per cent on price. The deadline for applications is 10 June.
How to apply
View the contract notice for more information
The Devizes Assize Court Trust
c/o Greenwood Williams
1st Floor, Syms Building
Charles Maurice Petty-Fitzmaurice, 9th Marquess of Lansdowne and chair of the Devizes Assize Court Trust
9th Marquess of Lansdowne
What is your vision for the future of Devizes Assize Court?
We start with a fine building designed by the Architect T H Wyatt in 1835 that represents the high aspirations of nineteenth century Devizes. Here we have the opportunity to bring a very important building back to life as a major contribution to the social, cultural and economic life of the town. For the historic building there needs to be careful and scholarly repair. For the conversion and new build we wish to see creative and inspiring spaces in which to think, learn and enjoy. The physical constraints are evident but, with sustainability and longevity as key components, imagination and innovation are unrestrained.
What sort of architects and designers are you hoping will apply?
We need to find architects and designers to work with us and the community. They need to bring the scheme to life and develop the full potential of a very exciting opportunity. At this stage we have tried to set out a brief that explains our aspirations but is not seeking to dictate an architectural solution or style. This will be a long-term project which could provide a wonderful opportunity for an emerging practice or for a well-established design team. We are hoping that the opportunity to rescue a building neglected for so long will be the incentive for creative thinking and high-quality design, and yes also a landmark.
Which other design opportunities are on the horizon and how will the architects/designers be procured?
The Assize Court site adjoins the Kennet & Avon Canal and the Wharf area where Wiltshire Council is working on a redevelopment and feasibility study. For our part the DAC Trust has been established specifically to take on the Assize Court project and we see this as a catalyst for the wider scheme. Within the Wharf area there are a number of privately-owned sites and buildings and it will be for those owners to respond to the opportunities outlined in the council’s plan. I think it is fair to say that the DAC Trustees are not constrained by ideas for the wider context but simply by the immediate need to raise funds for the current project.
Are there any other recent heritage restoration projects you have been impressed by?
As you would expect we have looked at a number of recent museum projects and also places where neglected buildings and spaces have been brought back to life. We are especially impressed by schemes where starting from a low base quite extraordinary community efforts have achieved remarkable results. One such is the Piece Hall, 2017 by LDN Architects (and the earlier rescue of the Square Chapel) in Halifax.
Here in Wiltshire the Stanton Williams 2010 project at Bourne Hill for Wiltshire Council stands out and, although 20 years ago, our partner organisation the Wiltshire Historic Buildings Trust carried out a regeneration project in Calne injecting new life into a then economically depressed area. The good news is that the scheme, by Vernon Gibbs Architect, has stood the test of time.