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Thornton Tomasetti Project wins Wood Awards Gold

LONDON – Thornton Tomasetti’s Waddesdon Archive at Windmill Hill project recently won the Gold prize – the top honor – as well as the Structural award at this year’s Wood Awards, the U.K.’s premier architecture and furniture competition.

The project consists of the redevelopment of existing farm buildings at Windmill Hill Farm into an archive and research facility, along with providing a new home for the philanthropic work of the Rothschild Foundation, which supports a wide range of educational, cultural, heritage and community-based initiatives in more than 40 European countries. The development has been part of a National Trust since 1957. Thornton Tomasetti director Les Postawa served as the project manager and Michael Roberts, associate, was the project engineer.

Key Points

•The development consists of five buildings, including four new structures and a refurbished stable and grain storage area.

•The focal point of the development is the library and reading room, which includes library facilities, display space for part of the Rothschild art collection and layout areas for viewing items stored in the archives. The building also accommodates conference facilities for the Rothschild Family Trusts.

•The building features an oak veneered, laminated-oak-framed roof with a stressed skin plywood membrane. The roof is completely open to ridge level and has hidden mechanical connections, which resulted in a large open space and the desired “furniture-grade” finish.

•The main archive building consists of a passively maintained two-storey archive storage facility that utilises “box-in-box” construction. The inner box is constructed from thermally massive collar-jointed blockwork walls, while the outer box is a lightweight steel frame using light gauge steel cladding rails to support an outer timber cladding. Automatic vents in the outer skin facilitate the flow of air between the inner and outer boxes, ensuring a constantly controlled environment within the archives. This significantly reduces the energy demands of the building and enables the mechanical, electrical and plumbing required for the project to fit comfortably within the retained structure.

•From early studies of the site topology, Thornton Tomasetti was able to help balance the amount of cut-and-fill required by considering the levels and forms of the proposed buildings in relation to the existing site levels. The studies demonstrated that aligning the building along the natural contours of the site would achieve two stories of archive space, with minimal increase in excavation.

•Thornton Tomasetti’s structural design team worked closely with Stephen Marshall Architects LLP and other consultants from the onset of the project to develop an integrated design strategy for all the services.

“This project was particularly challenging because the owner wanted the architecture to function like a highly crafted piece of furniture that fit seamlessly together to create a whole structure. As a result, timber was selected as the natural choice for the reading room because of the material’s ability to complement the conceptual strategy, significance to the agricultural heritage of the site and low carbon footprint. Ultimately, the only visible mechanical connections between timber members were the intentionally exposed details attaching A-frames to the base," said Les Postawa, director, Thornton Tomasetti.