Abandoned windmill converted into unique guesthouse with metal-clad viewing pod

Beech Architects
© Beech Architects

There's a lot of potential value and beauty in older structures -- not just for preserving the traditions they represent, but also for reducing of waste and carbon emissions associated with building something new from scratch. Having lost its cap and sails, this bottom stump of an abandoned, 125-year-old windmill in Suffolk, United Kingdom has been remade into a unique guesthouse, containing two bedrooms, a kitchen-diner, a bathroom, and topped with a zinc-clad viewing pod.

Beech Architects© Beech Architects

UK-based Beech Architects were behind this impressive bit of adaptive reuse, saying that the goal was to restore the 60-foot (18-metre) structure to its previous glory as a landmark in the landscape. Built in 1891, the windmill sat unused for many decades when it lost its distinctive top components. Back in the 19th century, this agricultural region boasted many of these old-fashioned windmills, before they were made obsolete by steam-powered mills. Today, only a few working windmills remain. The architects say on Dezeen:

The biggest design challenge was the reinstatement of the cap or 'pod', which was not intended as a faithful historic reconstruction, but rather as contemporary and innovative interpretation that would also serve as the principal living and viewing platform.

Beech Architects© Beech Architects

The existing structure was shored up from further decay:

Bespoke tapered insulation panels were applied externally to visually retain the brick within the accommodation, protect the soft brick from further erosion and exploit the thermal mass of the structure for heating and thermal comfort purposes.

Inside the new pod that now crowns the tower, a machine-cut Kerto timber rib system was installed to strengthen the pod against strong forces from the winds. Swedish manufacturer MetsaWood says "Kerto is laminated veneer lumber (LVL) product used in all types of construction. It is produced from 3mm thick rotary-peeled softwood veneers that are glued together to form a continuous sheet which makes it incredibly strong and dimensionally stable." This material was chosen over glulam timber as more flexibility was needed in the form. This wooden framework was covered by over 200 panels of zinc on the outside, giving the impression of a upturned boat's curved hull, shining in the sun.

Beech Architects© Beech Architects
Beech Architects© Beech Architects
Beech Architects© Beech Architects

The interior features all custom-made furniture, as the structure's round walls made it difficult to fit in standardized furnishings.

Beech Architects© Beech Architects
Beech Architects© Beech Architects

The owners, a surveyor and his wife, live in the house next door and now plan to rent it out. The architects worked with the local council during the whole process and design even garnered an RIBA award nomination recently. But some have complained about the redesign, saying that it looks "alien" and doesn't keep the windmill's original look. In any case, it's a striking conversion that at least re-adapts a derelict building into something useful, aesthetics aside. For more, visit Beech Architects.

Tags: Architecture | England

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