Stowe Chapel Court

Stowe Chapel Court

Continuing our success of Queen’s and Stanhope Houses we were invited to design a new Boys Boarding House Building and associated landscaping for the site adjacent to the previous boarding house – Chapel Court. The new house will be the latest phase of a development strategy for new boarding provision at the school following a comprehensive review of the existing housing in order to consolidate and improve its facilities, whilst relieving pressure on the Main House and returning it to its original features.

Client

Stowe School

Location

Buckinghamshire, UK

Size

1,650m2

Value

£5.6m

Dates

Nov 2014–2018

1 / 4

The new high quality purpose built, three storey boarding house will provide study bedrooms for 60 pupils, with staff accommodation, living facilities, common rooms, terrace and garden area. The associated landscaping will respond to the historic campus, defining the chapel courtyard, reinstating vistas, and strengthening the tree belt to conceal the development from the historic gardens. 

Stowe School occupies a site incorporating Stowe House and Gardens, which is widely regarded as one of the most important landscape gardens in the world. Stowe contains the highest concentration of Grade I listed structures in England reflecting the history of landscape design in England with significant contributions from Vanbrugh, Bridgeman, Kent and “Capability” Brown.

The New Boarding House buildings’ form has been shaped by these historic surroundings; embedded into the tree belt separating the Western Garden with the South Front areas, its main frontage aligns with the southern facing range of buildings in Chapel Court. The building entrance curved to address Chapel Forecourt, mediating the shifting geometries of Chestnut Avenue and surrounding building such as Queen’s, Stanhope, and Chatham House, forming a spatial presence to the chapel. 

The historic landscape and definition of this area was created by the strong woodland planting to the boundary. This presented the opportunity to formulate a landscape design approach to create a new garden space and southerly setting for the Boys’ Boarding House. This solution allows for the creation of a new avenue based on the Gibbon House axis, formed by the boundaries of the menagerie garden enclosure and the new Boys Boarding House Garden. These three elements combine to provide an overall landscape which maintains the historic visually containment and secretive quality to this part of the garden.

In section the building is arranged with common facilities on the ground floor, taking advantage of the southerly aspect. Above a run of study bedrooms arranged around a double loaded circulation give structure and rhythm to the massing. Staff accommodation is located in the shifting geometry, defined by Chestnut Avenue, and is buffered to Study Bedrooms by a central common circulation core. The form works with the naturally sloping site, enabling the building to sit comfortably in its chapel court surroundings. After entering from the north, the ground floor steps down to be level and open to the New Terrace and Gardens beyond. Staff accommodation massing is articulated with stepping forms, addressing the sloping ground levels and decreasing scale towards a domestic setting and new south gardens which are adjacent to the grade II listed menagerie.

A contextual response to Chapel Court, composed of a facade with a base, middle, and top. The repeating character of the Study Bedroom module and projecting bay window give structure and rhythm to the facade. A central pediment form or “attic” top storey provides a focal point and mediates the curving form as the building addresses the Chapel Forecourt. The projecting bay windows are collected within a vertical reminiscent of classical form. Render complimenting the surrounding tones are accented with a honeyed coloured stone to key features and details. The building sits on a continuous stone base, and ashlar stone highlights are used on the projecting bays, cornices, and window rebates.

The south elevation forms a backdrop to the New Gardens, and is characterised by a colonnade and an open terrace. Columns forming the colonnade carry up and define projecting Study Bedroom windows capped by a strong cornice. A large glazed opening at ground level connects the Main Common Room and Entrance Lobby with the Gardens. To the west of the Common Rooms, the Staff Accommodation steps down in storey heights with a raking silhouette. The facades to the Staff Accommodation are rendered, with the prominent volume of the House Masters House is faced in stone. The attic storey changes material becoming integral with the roofscape, screened with light coloured zinc sheet. Within this space is a self contained 1-Bedroom Staff residential unit and study beds.

MICA team for Rick Mather Architects.

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