Wincer Kievenaar Architects: Supporting the region’s heritage

A modern red brick building in 19th century style with windows including an arched one

A heritage project Wincer Kievenaar worked on was the 19th century Goldsmith’s Mansion on Market Hill in Sudbury - Credit: Wincer Kievenaar Architects

Sue Wilcock speaks to directors Phil Branton and Craig Western about striking the balance with designs that preserve the past whilst enhancing the present. 

The East Anglian countryside holds more than 55,000 listed buildings and more than 1,200 Conservation Areas which safeguard the rich history our area has to offer. 

Throughout its 40 years as an architectural practice, Wincer Kievenaar has worked with historic buildings experts, landscape architects and local authorities to create successful, award-winning designs for projects which have dealt with specific safeguards. 

Phil Branton explains: “Our team’s ability to analyse sites and provide imaginative, sensitive and energy efficient responses to each heritage asset comes as a natural addition of the ethos we bring to all our designs. 

“Maintaining the character of the landscapes within which heritage buildings exist is important to us. However, our designs aren’t all about creating something new that looks the same, unless of course our remit from the client is to do just that. 

“We also want to balance the history of the existing building, with a design that encompasses modern sustainable methods of construction, creating something that is striking and contrasting, where although they work in harmony, you can clearly see the line between old and new.” 

A heritage project which created something that replicated the original was the 19th century Goldsmith’s Mansion on Market Hill in Sudbury, which was destroyed by fire in September 2015. The clients were keen to make sure that the new building built in its place was in keeping with its setting in the town centre and retained its original characteristics, especially from the front. 

The design, which won an RIBA Suffolk Craftsmanship Award and was shortlisted by the RICS Eastern region in the Building Conservation category, incorporated a similar façade to the original listed building, retaining period features such as a roundel and arched window, as well as Bulmer Bricks; the same type used in the original Goldsmith’s Mansion. 

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A project where the old and the new worked harmoniously together was a bespoke contemporary residential conversion and extension to the Grade II listed Monkey Lodge in Freston. The site setting offers panoramic views of the River Orwell and the project, which won a RIBA Suffolk Design Award, adopted a bold but honest approach to the heritage asset whilst retaining the significance of the traditional gatehouse. 

When discussing the preservation and conservation of a heritage building, words such as renovation, extension, refurbishment and restoration are common terms that spring to mind. Yet, there is another which is becoming more common and that is repurposing. 

“Repurposing relates to creating a design that enables elements of the original structure to be retained, so it pays homage to its past use and the story it has to tell, whilst the building is adapted to provide something more useful and appropriate to the needs of today,” says Craig Western. “This may range from a humble listed outbuilding or barn, to a school or industrial building.” 

A recent local example is the redevelopment of Partridges, an iconic hardware store in Hadleigh; a scheme that Wincer Kievenaar has been involved in for the past three years. 

Partridges is at the hub of activity in the town, where it has been trading for 200 years. It sits in the Hadleigh Conservation Area and encompasses a series of linked buildings, three of which are Grade II Listed. Planning has been granted for a design which has evolved through a close examination and understanding of the site and its history, alongside the need to provide a viable redevelopment option. The final scheme improves the streetscape of the town and creates a new public realm, whilst providing space for continued retail uses at ground floor level and residential accommodation above. 

Phil continues: “The team here at Wincer Kievenaar view the part they play in supporting and preserving the region’s heritage buildings as extremely important. We are here to support and guide the owners and custodians of such heritage assets, to create solutions which enhance our wonderful and diverse built form. 

“Everything we design considers its situation. Our work doesn’t need to mimic the neighbours, but it should have respect for its environment. Heritage buildings fulfil important demands for cultural experiences and leisure, as well as creating benefits for tourism and the local economy. 

“We aim to both preserve the past and enhance the present with architecture that can delight.”