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Feilden Fowles wins go-ahead for Gothic-inspired cathedral extension

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Up-and-coming practice Feilden Fowles has received final approval for a new £3.4 million welcome and teaching centre at Carlisle Cathedral

The firm won planning consent late last year for the Fratry building project – hailed as ‘the most significant physical intervention on the site for more than 150 years’ – and has now secured the go-ahead for the 835m² scheme from the Cathedral Fabric Commission for England.

The proposal will redevelop and extend the existing Grade I-listed Fratry, which was constructed in the 1500s as the monastery refectory and currently houses one of the largest cathedral collections of 17th and 18th century books in England.

A new 185m² ‘lightweight’ entrance building linked to the refurbished Fratry features elevations inspired by Gothic Perpendicular tracery. 

Feilden Fowles claims the project will transform teaching activities at the 12th century cathedral, which is the seat of the Anglican Bishop in Carlisle.

The practice has been working on the scheme alongside engineers Structure Workshop and landscape architects Petherick, Urquhart and Hunt since winning an invited tender in May 2014.

Work is expected to be completed in spring 2019.

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Architect’s view

The building aspects of the project include: a single-storey, new-build entrance building to the north-west of the Fratry, replacing the original West Range of the priory, destroyed during the Reformation; the refurbishment of the existing Fratry Hall for interpretation, exhibitions and events; a link structure creating access to the split section; and the refurbishment of the undercroft for teaching and learning activities, where for the first time visitors will be able to enjoy the view through the entire length of the undercroft and see the six vaulted bays.

The entrance building redefines the cloister space and reintroduces a cloister garden as a reflective space at the heart of the cathedral precinct. The elevations to the entrance building are derived from the dropped arch on the western gable end of the Fratry, and the refinement of the Perpendicular Gothic tracery. The arched forms are combined with a delicate rectilinear frame and fine leading edge to the stonework. The result is a subtle curvature of the two geometries softening the elevations and creating interesting shadow patterns through the day and with the seasons.

The new lightweight, Perpendicular Gothic-inspired entrance building will provide a welcoming space where members of the clergy greet visitors and school groups. Visitors will be encouraged to make their approach through a cloister garden and enter the cathedral through the new fully accessible, DDA-compliant link building.

Services and toilets are located at the rear of the building, concealed from view. The design was subject to a comprehensive public consultation process, with public engagement meetings held in June 2016.

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Project data

Location Carlisle Cathedral, The Abbey, Carlisle
Total site area 1,500m²
Proposed gross internal area 835m² (existing area 650m²  + proposed area 185m²)
Construction value £1,950,275
Total delivery cost £3.4 million
Programme May 2014-Spring 2019

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