Sited in the grounds of Waddesdon - one of the most visited historic houses among England's National Trust properties, originally owned by the Rothschild family - Windmill Hill opened earlier this summer as the new home of the Waddesdon archives and the Rothschild Foundation.
Aiming to become a facility for study and outreach in the fields that Waddesdon represents (the arts, heritage, culture, conservation, the environment and horticulture) and a centre for the Rothschild Foundation's philanthropic work, the Windmill Hill centre was in need of an architecture design to match. And, thanks to London-based practice Stephen Marshall Architects, the new complex - a converted and extended former dairy farm - has already scooped one of the 2011 RIBA awards.
Windmill Hill follows the footprint of the original buildings, keeping references to the farm typology, like the central courtyard as well as the material palette (oak windows and shutters, rendered walls, wood cladding and zinc roofs). The three main areas that are housed within the complex – a reading room, offices and archives – are arranged around the courtyard on three sides, while the fourth side is open to the south.
The architects framed the surrounding stunning views and formal landscaped internal garden with carefully planned openings that connect the building with the scenery; the western view notably stands out, highlighted by a 25m beam.
Nestled in the grounds of the 1877-built Waddesdon Manor, the new complex is subtle, minimal and beautifully detailed through its thoughtful material selection. It is also in good company, joined in the grounds by sculptures by the likes of Sarah Lucas, Angus Fairhurst and Stephen Cox.