The Parchment Works is a minimalist property located in Northamptonshire, United Kingdom, designed by Will Gamble Architects. The existing property consisted of a Grade II listed double fronted Victorian house. Connected to the house was a disused cattle shed and beyond that a ruin, which was a former parchment factory and scheduled monument.

The client’s initial brief was to convert the cattle shed and demolish the ruin to make way for a new extension. From the beginning of the design process it was clear that the client viewed the ruin as a constraint as opposed to a positive asset that could be celebrated through a sensitive but well conceived intervention.

Instead of demolishing the ruin, Will Gamble Architects proposed ‘a building within a building’ – where two lightweight volumes could be delicately inserted within the masonry walls in order to preserve and celebrate it. A palette of honest materials were chosen both internally and externally which references the site’s history and the surrounding rural context.

Externally, corten steel, oak, and reclaimed brick were used. The extension was built from up-cycled materials predominantly found on site which was both cost effective and sustainable, whilst allowing the proposal to sensitively blend into its surroundings. Internally the structural beams of the existing cattle shed were exposed, as well as the steelwork to the new parts – the stone walls were re-pointed and washed in lime to create a mottled effect, and a concrete plinth was cast along the base to create a monolithic skirting. A contemporary kitchen (also designed by the practice) juxtaposes the uneven and disordered nature of the ruin and continues the theme of a modern intervention set within a historic context.

Photography by Johan Dehlin