2014 Yearbook

R E V I E W 21 THE ART OF INTERVENTION ASTLEY CASTLE and THE LANDMARK TRUST ANNA KEAY The Stirling Prize for Architecture is the competition for contemporary British architecture, awarded in the past to projects by Norman Foster and Zaha Hadid. For the 2013 competition to be won by Astley Castle in Warwickshire – in essence a conservation scheme – was remarkable. That said, both the approach and the end result were far from conventional. A fortified manor house, Astley Castle was established in 1266. It was licensed by Henry III from his tent at the siege of Kenilworth and stands on a moated site close to its former collegiate chapel (now the parish church). In its heyday it was a place of real status: home to the first husband of Edward IV’s queen, Elizabeth Woodville, and later to Sir Henry Grey, Duke of Suffolk and father of Lady Jane Grey. Sir Henry was hunted down by Mary Tudor’s soldiers in the park at Astley, and taken prisoner while hiding inside one of its oaks. Time, however, was to take a heavy toll on the building. In 1978, after a spell as a hotel, it was burned out in a mysterious and devastating fire. What remained was a charred shell, further denuded by vandals and thieves, and literally and visibly collapsing. With no roofs or floors and almost no interior fittings, rescuing this complex multi-period structure was always going to be challenging. After much discussion and research the Landmark Trust decided on a radical approach. When the competition was held to find an architect, the brief asked for ‘a bold response to the question of how a contemporary building can co-habit with one that is both remarkable and very old’. The successful architects, Witherford Watson Mann, who had no significant experience with historic buildings, proposed an approach which allowed for more than co-habitation: a meaningful physical integration of the old and the new. It is precisely the harmony between these two very distinct categories of work at Astley Castle that has been its making, made possible by a generous grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund and the support of a host of others. BACKGROUND In opting for a contemporary response to the problem of how to save Astley Castle the Landmark Trust was cutting new turf, but not completely so. The charity has been going for almost 50 years during which time some 195 buildings, almost all in some degree of decay or dilapidation, have been brought back into use through a wide range of design approaches. On the Cothele Estate in Cornwall the derelict remnants of the 19th-century Danescombe copper and arsenic mine had (see page 22) Astley Castle, Warwickshire (All photos: The Landmark Trust)