Award-winning transformation of a decayed Grade I-listed country house into a public art gallery.
Compton Verney is a listed country house which dates from the eighteenth century. Stanton Williams was commissioned following a competition in 1994 to transform it into a public art gallery, restoring the original house as a sequence of galleries for the permanent collections and providing a contemporary extension that accommodates a flexible, environmentally-controlled gallery for temporary exhibitions together with necessary visitor facilities.
The house is presented as a journey from the historic to the contemporary. The visitor experience and circulation has been enhanced through careful planning of the flow of space between the three floors of galleries. Glass ramps, bridges, and stairs were designed to link buildings and help capture the magical qualities of the light at Compton Verney.
The character of the ground-floor rooms has been maintained, repairing historic features whilst sensitively adapting the building’s structure to allow gallery use. Fewer features survived at the house’s upper levels, and so ‘rooms within rooms’ were created by means of new panels that sit in front of repaired walls and ceilings as the basis for displays. They are cut back at their edges to reveal original fabric. The result is a sense of abstraction as visitors move through the galleries, with the contemporary gradually taking precedence over the historic in a way that anticipates the character of our addition to the building.
The new wing accommodates the flexible gallery, shop, café and cloakrooms. It occupies the site of a long-disappeared service wing to the north of the house. Clearly contemporary in appearance, it nonetheless responds closely in its materials, textures and massing to the original building, the proportions of which generate a rigorous order that controls the form and detailing of our building. Beyond, derelict outbuildings have been renovated and stitched together by an additional intervention in order to create offices, lecture rooms and a suite of education rooms.
The results have been widely acclaimed, with recognition including awards from the RIBA and the Civic Trust.