Charles Knowles Design : Architects

Gravetye Manor

Architectural Concept

The challenge was to provide a large new restaurant building and basement set within the underused asymmetrical yard of a world famous Jacobean manor house (Grade 1) and garden (Grade 2*), both recently restored to their former glory by Elizabeth and Jeremy Hosking. The rationale was to create a simple, understated and elegant contemporary solution which would not compete with the existing building, and add to the legacy of an enlightened patron. The proposal was a horizontal traditional lead roof line (reflecting the horizontal layers of the garden) to be seen from the croquet lawn and upper floors of the hotel. Referencing the earlier porch by Sir Ernest George, the new addition of columns with frameless glazing all around with minimal intervention, partially protrudes outwards to reduce the bulk, taking no support from the existing building. The columns are mostly outside the glazing to lessen their impact when the garden panorama is viewed from the interior, for it is the fusion of food and garden that gives the hotel it’s unique character. Like many “simple” designs, it involved very complex planning, detailing and construction.

Exterior/Interior

Exterior and interior of the new building are designed to complement each other. The symmetry of the interior restaurant layout reflects that of the new building. The concept was of an “umbrella” under which one appears to dine within the garden. The floating umbrella structure is set away from the walls using frameless glazing to allow light and sun to pour down the weathered stonework and through into the existing building as well as the new, and for the structure to project out into the garden planting. A central roof light allows further sunshine deep into the space. New carved locally quarried stone openings have been formed to connect the old building to the new.

Interior

The priority was to give every diner in the Michelin starred restaurant a view of the garden and to divide the space into three distinct areas with dwarf wall banquettes to provide intimacy and enhance the sense of personal space.

The banquettes around the perimeter follow the existing and new stonework dado and absorb sound. The ceiling is a light maple acoustic ceiling reflecting the layout of the seating areas. The floor is in two parts, a stone floor around the perimeter against the stone walls, and a Versailles pattern 200 year old reclaimed oak one in the dining space under the maple ceiling. To soften the externally weathered stonework, there is hand painted artwork set off the walls, to reflect the garden planting.

Construction

Months of meticulous preplanning by the architectural/consultant team with the local contractor enabled a fast track programme on site of only 4 months including the worst of winter weather. The works included some internal alterations including a new kitchen. The whole concrete basement to house plant room, wcs and store rooms was factory prefabricated in parts, complete with every service hole requirement for the restaurant above, shipped from Germany and dropped in by crane. The steel frame and glazing design were coordinated with only 5 millimetres of tolerance and had to fit as there was no time to site measure before glass manufacture.

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