Dow Jones has been handed planning permission to almost triple the size of a day nursery in a hall at St Thomas the Martyr Church in Redcliffe, Bristol
The 452m² Becket Hall scheme next to the Grade II*-listed church is backed by former senior editor of The Architectural Review and now associate at Purcell, Rob Gregory.
The architect had previously used the former church hall building as his home, then converted it into design studios for start-ups before it became a nursery in 2010.
Gregory ran an invited competition in 2015 to find the design team, choosing Dow Jones ahead of Studio Weave, Ordinary Architecture and Stonewood Design.
Explaining his choice, Gregory said: ‘I was immediately impressed with how simply and directly Dow Jones had understood the special qualities of the site; the simplicity with which they had nailed the brief; and how, despite producing the least quantum of work and having the highest fee, they’d responded to the invitation to tender with poetry and pragmatism.
‘For [my business partner] Danielle, it was more about rapport, with Biba Jones standing out as the most approachable and client-focused of all contenders.’
However, the proposals, when submitted in January 2018, stalled in planning. According to Gregory, the Bristol City Council missed its ’own determination deadline by an eye-watering 34 weeks’ before the local authority eventually approved the scheme ‘without a single material change’.
Work is expected to start on the scheme, which features a timber-framed structure that wraps around and extends the original stone building, later this summer.
Ground floor plan
The existing building is a single-storey ragstone building with a series of small ancillary stores and an internal mezzanine providing additional accommodation. The former churchyard provides a generous and open space with mature trees for the children to play in, and the nursery also leases a four-storey building across the churchyard for additional teaching and staff space. The grouping of buildings around the garden feels both secluded and lively, sitting as it does in the city centre.
The nursery is expanding, and our proposal responds to a brief to provide additional class spaces, to improve the connections between the church hall building and the garden, and to provide covered play areas.
Our design responds with a timber-framed structure that sits on the site of the existing stores, providing deep play areas on both the ground and mezzanine floors, and a whole new floor above the church hall for two new classrooms opening onto roof terraces.
The timber framing wraps and extends the existing stone building, providing generous covered play areas around it which will be enclosed as classrooms in a future phased expansion of the nursery.
The form of the timber envelope cloaks the church hall, originally built in a tight and un-overlooked site, and responds to the stepping jetties of the 17th century buildings facing it across the churchyard.
Location Redcliffe, Bristol
Type of project Day care nursery
Client Becket Hall Day Nursery
Architect Dow Jones Architects
Planning consultant n/a
Structural engineer Momentum
M&E consultant OR Consult
Quantity surveyor Mildred, Howells and Co
Planning supervisor n/a
Main contractor TBC
Tender date TBC
Start on site TBC
Completion date TBC
Gross internal floor area Currently 188m²; proposed addition 300m². Total 452m² (with stores demolished)
Form of contract and/or procurement Traditional