The Pump House

  • Project Type: Commercial
  • Client: Private
  • Status: Planning
  • Location: Kent

A contemporary roof extension that references the historical styling of the original pump house.

The Pump House was built in a neo-Romanesque style which was popular in the 19th Century. Perhaps the most famous example of this revivalist style is the Natural History Museum in South Kensington conceived by Richard Owen as a ‘cathedral to nature’ and designed by the great Victorian architect Alfred Waterhouse. In keeping with the grand ambitions of the Victorians, Waterhouse re-imagined the heavy masonry architecture of the 11th & 12th century using cast terracotta and cast iron. We would look to re-imagine the Romanesque (or Norman in an English context) in a 21st century way to create a ‘cathedral to technology’. The Pump House is a tall yellow brick structure with red brick buttressed corners with single arched windows at ground floor and pairs of smaller arched windows at first floor. The design is unusual in that it has a single storey range to the west which was likely to have been the old boiler house. It is relatively unadorned for a revivalist building, though this is in keeping with the simplicity of Romanesque architecture.

In its current configuration, the building appears truncated. The massive masonry walls simply finish with a small, corbelled cornice with lead flashings. 12th century Romanesque buildings would have had a pitched roof structure, so this is one of the reasons why the building looks incomplete. Historic photographs show that the building was originally a full storey taller with a pitched roof with central rose window in the southern gable end. The roof and approximately 3 meters of brickwork to the eaves (5.5 meters to the top of the gable end) was removed. Our proposal looks to reinstate the roof volume back to its original height and volume with a new storey constructed in a contemporary design. The proposal looks to work with the symmetrical arrangement of the existing facades with corner columns and central pilaster. In line with Romanesque architecture, the structure gets lighter as it gets taller. The campanile at Trani cathedral illustrates this perfectly, the heavy stone base gets lighter with more openings as the tower gets taller. Our proposal seeks to do the same thing, culminating in a lightweight lantern at the top of the existing structure, building on the rhythm and geometry of the Romanesque style creating a contemporary arcade at top floor level. The design is simple and functional, the structure expresses the way it is constructed. The roof pitch will take advantage of the southwest orientation and will integrate photo voltaic panels that will generate sustainable electricity to power both the pump house and the works buildings.

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