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Grafton Hall Neoclassical English Mansion

Domestic Building by Robert Adam Architects in Cheshire, England, UK

4 Aug 2008

Neoclassical English House

New traditional mansion in Cheshire replaces ‘starfish’ design as house of the future

A new classical mansion will be built instead of the Ushida Findlay ‘starfish’ design which, seven years ago, was held up by the Modernist architectural establishment as the country house of the future.

Grafton Hall

The classical house design by Robert Adam received planning permission this week from Chester City Council, following months of positive consultation. Unfriendly commentators dubbed the style ‘neo-Georgian pomp’ in 2002. This week, however, it was called “an exceptionally outstanding design” in a carefully considered planning report from the City Planners, who recognized the designer’s “innovative use of classical principles in a contemporary manner” in a way which “will be unique to this building”.

Also importantly, Grafton Hall is set to be one of the most eco-friendly homes in Britain.

In 2001 the Grafton Hall site in Cheshire was the subject of a well-publicised RIBA competition to find country house style for the 21st century. The winning design was a starfish shaped building with pink tentacles spreading into the landscape.

The proposed house made headlines when it received planning permission in 2002. But it proved impossible to sell despite The Guardian’s confidant assertion that it was ‘unlikely to be a white elephant, or even a stranded starfish’.

Robert Adam commented, “My client made the common-sense choice. Survey after survey has shown that people prefer to live in traditional buildings and not in architectural experiments. This may be bigger and more expensive, but the choice is the same. Usually the public gets what it is given, but with Grafton New Hall my client was fortunate enough to be able to choose. After seven years of trying, no-one wanted the competition winning design.”

Crispin Harris of Jackson Stops and Staff, who has been advising on the design, said “it is our experience that this is just the kind of house that our wealthier clients are looking for.”

The owner of the site had the vision to commission a new classical design as an exemplar of sustainability as well as of outstanding architectural quality. The design is traditional but, in accordance with government regulations, it is also an innovative use of classical principles; Robert Adam is known for combining modernity with tradition.

The 32,000 sq ft mansion is built of local stone and complete with pool buildings, staff accommodation and stables. The new house sits in its own 200 acre mature landscape setting (once the setting for a lost Tudor mansion).

Chris Burnett, the landscape architect, said, “I enjoyed working closely with the design team to realise the outstanding potential of the site.” The new design will be the latest addition to the collection of fine country houses notable in this part of Cheshire.

Adam says” This is just the sharp end of an overwhelming popular view and the architectural community must now listen. New traditional architecture is the way of the future. It is particularly appropriate for the 21st century as traditional buildings are greener, more energy efficient and have a longer lifespan than so-called contemporary buildings – and we have the research to prove it.”

Grafton Hall was awarded a rare planning permission on 23rd July 08 under PPS7 which permits a private house in open countryside because “the highest standards of contemporary architecture” have been reached.

Conor Vallelly at HOW Planning explains “Given the stringency of the PPS7 policy tests, it has been a real challenge to ensure we met all of the requirements to make an exceptional case. This has been achieved by producing the highest quality design which demonstrates innovation at every stage and pushes the boundaries of modern sustainability techniques.’’

To achieve a development with minimal environmental impact, Robert Adam Architects worked with the environmental engineers Atelier Ten to design a building to meet the exceptionally demanding Code for Sustainable Homes Level 5 certificate and which, to date, no house has achieved. Atelier Ten believes Grafton Hall is ”truly innovative” and will “be used as an exemplar for future housing development”

Robert Adam’s new country house in Hampshire, another success under country house laws, was rejected by the RIBA Awards selection committee in May this year despite having been dignified with the top award by the Georgian Society. This is an example of the architectural professions’ stylistic bias towards ‘contemporary’ styles, a view not shared by the public.

Grafton Hall Cheshire Mansion – Building Information

Client: Private client
Architect: Robert Adam at Robert Adam Architects
Planning Consultant: HOW Planning
Building Services: Atelier Ten
Landscape: Chris Burnett Associates
Agent: Jackson-Stops and Staff

Grafton Hall architect : Robert Adam

Grafton Hall image / information from Robert Adam Architects

Adam Architecture

Location: Cheshire, north west England, UK

Architecture in England

New Architecture in England

English Architecture Design – chronological list

English Houses

Robert Adam Architects is based in Winchester and London and has an international reputation for progressive classical and traditional design.

Ushida Findlay

Quinlan Terry Architect

Stowe House
Stowe House
picture from architect

Lake District house

Robert Adam Architects

Robert Adam – Georgian architect from Scotland

English Architect

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