Raglan Castle Visitor Centre - Monmouthshire

The town of Raglan lies in the old Welsh border district of Gwent, now Monmouthshire, and has one of the last medieval castles to be built in England and Wales. With its crisp silhouette crowning a ridge within the landscape, its' remains are considered to be one of the finest late medieval buildings in the British Isles. The castle is now maintained by Cadw on behalf of the National Assembly for Wales and is open to the public throughout the year. Cadw commissioned Davies Sutton to provide new visitor facilities within the ruined gatehouse at the entrance to the site, a very difficult challenge. Part of the building is built over the outline of the existing ruined gatehouse, the other half an extended building set back from the existing ditch wall. The new building is designed to lessen its impact upon arrival at the castle, by tucking itself away behind the existing stone structure. The visitor centre is entered via a level access off the existing bridge of the White Gate. Within the former eastern chamber of the gatehouse there is an open-plan area, controlled by a reception and information desk. The building extends eastwards where it is set back from the top of the existing boundary wall. A small custodians' office, containing a tea station and basic washing facilities, is accessible from the open plan area, whilst an externally accessed disabled toilet provides much needed wheelchair-accessible facilities within the castle site. The steel-framed structure of the visitor centre affords almost unobstructed views of the castle from within the shop. The location of the reception desk and office allow for continuous monitoring of the site entrance, the car park and the area within the castle leading to the main gatehouse. Storage is within the basement of the gatehouse and is accessed via a new staircase located in the same position as the original staircase of the White Gate.
Planning and Design

Planning and Design Process

Vision

The visitor centre was envisaged as a pavilion resting lightly on the underlying ground and “floating within the ruined elements of the White Castle”.  This approach attempts to distinguish between the old and the new, whilst also being sympathetic and subservient to the historic and natural surroundings.

Materials

The building is sheltered within the ruins of the castle gate, and timber cladding and a glazed finish provide a subtle contrast to the existing stonework.

Archaeological constraints

An archaeological appraisal carried out on the site imposed a series of constraints on the development and key details regarding the junctions between the old and new building fabric were agreed with Cadw. Although intended as a permanent structure, its design has a “reversible feel” and, if it had to be removed in the future, this could be achieved without damaging the historic fabric of the White Gates. 

Contrast

The central portion of the roof is raised above the main body of the visitor centre, allowing for better spatial definition of the existing ruin.  This idea is continued externally, reinforcing the contrasting geometries of the new and old elements of the building, particularly when viewed from the battlements of the Great Tower.

Landscape context

Timber louvres are used to screen portions of the large glazed elements that offer views to the surrounding countryside and castle.  This also shades the building, with the timber rainscreen panels providing a contrast to the ashlar stonework of the gatehouse, and echoing the use of timber elsewhere in the castle.

Sustainability Outcomes

Heating and cooling

It aims to produce a building with a very low carbon heating system and is therefore heated via a ground source heat pump, with under floor heating throughout. Energy requirements are reduced with Warmcell insulation used to highly insulate walls, and an element of the building being located in the ground. Large window openings are high performance and also serve to flood the building with natural light.

Ventilation

There is natural ventilation throughout, including   sensor operated, opening louvres to the shop that remove the build up of excessive heat in the public areas, which can quickly be filled by large groups of people.

 

Related links

CADW

 

 

Design and Construction Information

Client: Cadw – Welsh Historic Monuments

Architect: Davies Sutton Architects

Date of Completion: February 2008

Contract value: £392,602

Site Area: 120m2 Building footprint

Awards: RIBA Award 2010, Consortium of Local Authorities in Wales (CLAW) 2009 Building of the Year Award (Commended in the sustainability category)

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