The grand Palladian mansion Clandon Park in Surrey was built to impress and entertain. Guests would arrive in their carriages down the long drive, walk up the grand entrance staircase into the stunning Marble Hall and, from there, move into the State Rooms.
Built in the 1720’s for the 2nd Lord Onslow by the Italian architect Giacomo Leoni, it was the height of 18th century fashion and grandeur at the time.
Tragically, on the 29th of April 2015, a fire starting in the basement ripped through the house destroying all of the interiors except the Speaker’s Parlour, and many of the artworks, though some were carried to safety as the fire raged and others have amazingly been found in the huge pile of debris that filled the building. Today, the interior is a ruin, with much of the original brickwork exposed, strong enough to save the building structure, and with original features remaining, including the floor of the Marble Hall, fireplaces, cornices and statues protected in their niches; enough to encourage the National Trust to consider options for future development to include restoration of at least the Marble Hall and the State Rooms.
What to do with the remainder on the upper floors? Was there any point in restoring these spaces to what they had been, when so much had been destroyed? The National Trust decided that Clandon deserved a new life for the 21st century, combining the restoration of the main rooms with new uses of the remainder as flexible spaces for contemporary art exhibitions, displays, performances and other activities.
The different proposals of the six finalists of the international architectural competition to provide ideas for the future of Clandon and enable the Trust to select a design team are currently on show in a pavilion in the Park, the firms beingAL_A and Giles Quarme & Associates, Allies and Morrison and Feilden+Mawson, Donald Insall Associates and Diller Scofidio + Renfro, Purcell and Sam Jacob Studio, Selldorf Architects and Cowie Montgomery Architects, and, Sergison Bates Architects and AOC Architecture.
The jury have a tough choice to make from these excellent proposals, with different suggestions for where the entrance to the building should be, the refurbishment (or not) of the west “hall”, now three storeys high, the location and treatment of staircases, how much of the current brickwork to leave exposed and how contemporary the architectural treatment of the new features such as staircases and galleries, should be. Six different options, but whatever is chosen, the best would be something that reflects the uniqueness of Clandon; there are enough gallery spaces across the world that are excellent technically, but have no identity. There is the opportunity here to create something really special that provides 21st century interiors that enhance the history and identity of Clandon and the park in which it sits.