The National Trust
Chedworth Roman Villa is a Scheduled Ancient Monument set within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in the heart of the Cotswolds. The site includes over a mile of Roman walls, bathhouses, hypocausts, a water shrine and several mosaics thought to rival those in Pompeii.
Our new conservation shelter, following the line of the west range of the villa, now protects the most significant archaeological remains. A refurbished visitor reception building and a much-needed education centre have also greatly improved the visitor experience.
The site’s rural setting, coupled with our unshakeable conviction that the Roman archaeology should remain the star of the show, inspired our formal and material approach to the new building.
We set out to create a building that provides a neutral, calm setting for the archaeology. Through rigorous detailed design, we worked hard to suppress distracting details – such as gutters and window frames – that might draw attention and represent a degree of visual “clutter”.
Our masterplan showed that Victorian efforts at conservation on the site were outdated and that the early conservation shelters simply weren’t providing sufficient protection. The National Trust wished us take a fresh look at interpretation and to provide new opportunities for learning and enjoyment.
It was important to avoid any suggestion of reconstruction of the Roman villa, and the new building boldly celebrates the juxtaposition of new and old.
The new building sits lightly on the existing Roman foundations. The structure is assembled from a kit of parts and is held in place with optimally sized timber frames that didn’t require fixings into the Roman masonry of the villa. It holds its own weight and can be easily demounted or adapted as future interpretation and conservation practices change.
All elements of the timber cladding, including the timber “wrap”, the sliding shutters, and weatherboarding are also of untreated European Larch, grown on the National Trust’s estate in its managed forest at Ashridge in Hertfordshire.
Lime mortar, limestone and timber were the principal connections linking new and old, with concrete limited to only a few historically unimportant places on the site.
The new shelter eliminates the environmental effects that were previously affecting the Roman mosaics with a weatherproofed, black single-ply membrane, clad in larch battens. Sliding timber panels on glazed sections control solar gain, with carefully angled battens preventing low-level sun from damaging the mosaics. This provides a technically stable environment for the villa’s archaeology while still enabling visitors to see clearly from both inside and outside the building. Mechanical dampers also maintain stable ventilation levels, allowing the building to “breathe” according to conservation needs.
2012 CPRE Gloucestershire Awards
2013 RIBA National Award
Cotswold Archaeology Trust
Integral Engineering Design
E3 Consulting Engineers
CDM & Project Management Cost Consultant:
Mildred Howells & Co
Building Regulations Approved Inspector:
Oculus Building Consultancy
John Dawson, National Trust