Chris Senior MCIAT, PiP
Waterside in Ely, Cambridgeshire, is a radical transformation of three neglected agricultural barns into luxury four bedroom detached riverside dwellings designed by PiP Architecture. In completing this project, PiP Architecture overcame a number of major challenges. These included ensuring the conversions were suitable for family living while retaining their historic fabric and character; giving each one a unique character while maintaining an overall coherence; making the most of the stunning location and ensuring that they benefit the wider community within their setting whilst maintaining privacy for those living in the homes. Situated on the waterfront, the barns once formed part of Lavender Farm, dating back to the late 1800s when they were predominantly used for housing livestock.
To retain the historic character of the barns whilst making them suitable for modern family life, PiP removed the roof of each barn and 'dropped' a new building inside the original. This meant the new buildings could be two storey in height, maximising the living space and taking advantage of the stunning riverside views. PiP endeavoured to make each dwelling unique while retaining a coherence to the development. This was achieved by using a carefully selected palette of contrasting materials. However, to minimise unecessary complexity during the build, a coherent frame construction was employed across all units, with the external cladding finishes providing the variation in appearance. All living areas are located on the first floor within vaulted ceilings and enjoy south facing, solar shaded, roof terraces. Bedroom accommodation is located on the ground floor.
With floorspace restricted by the footprint of the original barns, PiP minimised unnecessary circulation space in order to optimise living areas for the pleasure of occupants. All internal walls are non load-bearing, allowing adaptability to the lifestyle and needs of future residents. Each building showcases a contrasting material, chosen to complement one another in their rich and natural palate. All materials used are sustainable to ensure longevity. Window positions and building canopies ensure maximum solar gain during the winter months and effective solar shading during summer. PiP's radical development at Waterside, Ely secured the confidence of the local authority, who gave their full support under delegated powers. They have formed a striking contemporary design which enhances the public experience of the riverside while simultaneously maintaining respect for the traditional proportions of these historic barns.
Waterside is full of clever detailing which was considered at the early stages of the project and anticipated holistically throughout the design. An outstanding design solution approach with use of a superb palette of low maintenance and sustainable materials. Interesting technical solutions have been utilised with the host structures, and are energy efficient with a fabric first approach. The whole project has breathed new life into old and disused buildings, whilst retaining their historic element.