Street Record, Bath Spa University Campus, Newton St. Loe, Bath
Newton Park is a unique landscape of historic importance and efforts to sensitively restore it are welcomed. The original country house was designed in harmony with its context and in our view any new development should be subservient to its splendour. The existing modern buildings are very randomly scattered and of little architectural merit. Hopefully new development will help to enhance the site, and the setting of the many listed buildings and structures. The Trust will require more time to examine the proposed master plan in detail therefore these comments apply only to this detailed application for the new academic building.
The architects have provided illustrations to explain how they came up with the rhythm of the elevations to the proposed academic building. The result appears a little far-fetched. Any sense of the old building in reality would be lost in the new façade and it would not be obvious that it is a new interpretation of the house. This is because proposed elevations appear random, and any sense of order is lost in the inconsistent arrangement of the coloured clay cladding panels. The appearance does not seem to follow any recognisable architectural language. It is incoherent and garish and strangely baffling.
We do not therefore consider that the design successfully mirrors the house, nor succeeds in any effort to harmonise with the landscape and respect the building in size and scale. Either the existing building should be mirrored more perfectly, or the design should be something completely different, perhaps taking greater reference from the landscape.
For a building that is on the one hand seeking to fit into the existing character and grain, the overall bulk is too great, particularly that of the curved part.
The design of any new building within the campus ought to bow to the special interest and fragility of the registered parkland, instead of competing for attention trying to do something more brilliant. New buildings on this site ought to step back, and let the landscape and the historic buildings take front stage.
In our view the benefit of the building does not justify the harm that would be caused, and the same benefits could be achieved through a far more subtle and considered design.
The Trust therefore regrets that it cannot support this application for the new academic building. In our view the building by virtue of its inappropriate design, height, bulk, scale and appearance would detract from the setting of listed buildings in the Park within close and distant proximity and would have a detrimental impact on the character and historic interest of the registered parkland. The adverse impact the building would have on the designated heritage assets would fail to accord with B&NES Local Plan Policies BH2 and BH9 and National Planning Guidance contained within PPS 5, Planning for the Historic Environment, and thus would be sufficient reason for refusal.