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IF_DO wins approval for overhaul of historic Suffolk estate

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Up-and-coming London practice IF_DO has won planning and listed-building consent to redevelop a moated hall and its estate in rural Suffolk 

The proposals by the studio, which was shortlisted for last year’s AR Emerging Architecture awards, will see the Grade II-listed Cowlinge Hall and four surrounding, dilapidated barns converted into a new events space and wedding venue.

The 16th-century hall is set within a moated site, which is a Scheduled Ancient Monument dating from the 13th century.

The main house has been derelict for years, and will be restored and converted into the primary guest accommodation ‘with a series of restored reception rooms and large farmhouse kitchen at ground floor’.

The barns will also be renovated to create an ‘arrival courtyard’ and series of flexible events spaces, including a ceremony space, a banqueting hall, and a reception/concert hall together with other guest rooms. The project is expected to complete in summer 2019. 

The architect’s view

We were commissioned to oversee the careful restoration of the hall house, which was built in the 16th and 17th centuries and altered in the 19th century, as well as the renovation of the adjacent agricultural barns, creating a destination venue which will host a wide range of events from exhibitions and musical recitals, to weddings and conferences.

The complex will encompass large function spaces, visitor accommodation, and back-of-house and support facilities.

It has presented an opportunity for a site-wide masterplan which will ensure the long-term sustainability of this heritage site. The scope of the work entails sensitive restoration of the historic fabric, combined with new-build interventions, creating multi-use flexible exhibition and events spaces in the barn complex.

The main house has been derelict for many years and is in a state of disrepair with a dilapidated roof and exposed timber walls. The house will provide the primary guest accommodation for the site, with a series of restored reception rooms and large farmhouse kitchen at ground floor, and several unique bedroom suites above.

The enclave of barns to the north-east of the site will be completely renovated to create an arrival courtyard and series of flexible events spaces including a ceremony space, a banqueting hall, and a reception/concert hall along with guest accommodation.

Retaining the agricultural vernacular of the site, the barns will employ portal framing and will be clad with agricultural aluminium, and feature zinc and oak cladding, oak windows, and polished concrete floors.

Sustainable measures include the use of natural materials (non-hydraulic lime, oak etc), and the incorporation of on-site water treatment and photovoltaics.

Drawing axo

Drawing axo

Project data

AddressCowlinge Hall, Cowlinge, Newmarket CB8 9HT
Client Private
Size 1,400m²
• House – Primary guest accommodation – total 317m²
• Barn 1 – Ceremony space and services – total 278m²
• Barn 2 – Reception/concert hall, bar, services and staff accommodation – total 501m²
• Barn 3 – Bar and banqueting – total 107m²
• Barn 4 – Secondary guest accommodation – total 120m²
Structural engineer Morrish Consulting Engineers
Services engineer MLM
Quantity surveyor CBE Partnership
Method of construction Traditional/Prime Cost and Standard JCT




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