National Trust launches International Design Competition for Clandon Park

  • Initiative will bring new life to Clandon Park, the National Trust’s Grade I listed Palladian house, near Guildford in south-east England, which suffered a major fire in April 2015
  • High profile project to restore and reimagine this widely admired architectural masterwork has a £30m construction value
  • Architect-led teams asked to submit details of project understanding, proposed team and relevant experience at the competition’s first stage – deadline 21 April 2017
  • Five or more finalists who reach the second stage will create concept designs that integrate a sensitive restoration of some of the principal state rooms with new flexible spaces in the upper floors which encourage and inspire imaginative programming
  • Jury to be chaired by Sandy Nairne CBE FSA, National Trust Board of Trustees member, and former director of the National Portrait Gallery

The National Trust and Malcolm Reading Consultants today [9 March 2017] launched the global search for a world-class multidisciplinary design team to restore and reimagine Clandon Park, the Trust’s Grade l listed, 18th-century Palladian house, near Guildford, which suffered a major fire two years ago.

The conservation charity is looking for a team comprising architects, engineers, interpretation specialists and landscape designers. The charity aims to bring the house – widely considered to be a masterwork – back to life through new uses, and transform the visitor experience.

The fire in April 2015, thought to have been caused by a manufacturing fault in an electrical board, left only a small portion of the house unscathed. However, the house’s brick superstructure, the Speakers’ Parlour, and architectural features in its celebrated Marble Hall survived. Six hundred artefacts were rescued on the night of the fire and others, removed from the debris, await conservation.

The Trust envisages a sensitive and thoughtful restoration of some of the principal state rooms on the ground floor along with the introduction of new spaces, for imaginative programming, on the upper levels. The brief to architects who reach the design stage of the competition asks that the two elements confidently relate to each other and create a building that reads as one, and which is integrated within its setting.

Clandon Park is architecturally significant for capturing the moment in England when the Baroque was making way for Palladianism. Designed by Venetian-born architect, Giacomo Leoni, its celebrated interiors were concealed within its austere red brick form. Prior to the fire, the glistening white, double-height Marble Hall, with allegorical figures extending from the ceiling, was one of the house’s showpieces.

The competition, which has been keenly anticipated by the design community, is being run by independent competition specialists, Malcolm Reading Consultants (MRC). Full details of the project and how to enter the competition are available on the dedicated website.

Dame Helen Ghosh, Director-General of the National Trust said:

“The National Trust is delighted to invite the best talent from around the world to enter this design competition for the restoration and reimagining of Clandon Park.

“A masterwork of its time, Clandon now needs a sensitive, thoughtful restoration of some of the principal staterooms on the ground floor as well as new, multi-use galleries and visitor spaces on the upper floors to showcase the Trust’s and other collections, encourage new creative partnerships and draw new audiences.

“Clandon is so historically resonant and has such cultural potential that we want the competition to attract the most talented design teams with the freshest thinking to help us bring it back to life.”

Clandon Park’s Project Director, Paul Cook, said:

“The trauma of the fire and sense of loss we feel heightens our determination to transform the visitor experience at Clandon and give the house a higher profile both regionally and nationally. Not only is this a building with an exceptional aura and history, it has strategic position too.

“In Surrey, in the heart of the south-east and close to London, Clandon is surrounded by potential new visitors who share the Trust’s love of beauty, of history, of art and culture.”

The competition jury will be chaired by Sandy Nairne CBE FSA, National Trust Board of Trustees member, and former director of the National Portrait Gallery. The Trust has developed its vision for the project over the two years since the fire by taking an informed, open and inclusive approach, commissioning detailed research, surveys and studies, and also listening to statutory bodies, amenity societies, neighbours, members, community groups and local stakeholders. The high profile project has a construction value of £30m.

Competition teams should be led by an architect and demonstrate multidisciplinary expertise in design, conservation, structural engineering, mechanical and electrical engineering, interpretation and landscape design. Creative collaborations are encouraged and additional skills may be proposed.

Competitors will need to fill out the online form on the competition website and upload documents detailing their project understanding, proposed team and relevant experience. No design is sought at the first stage of the competition.The full jury will be announced at the competition’s second stage.

The deadline for expressions of interest is 14:00 BST 21 April 2017. The five or more teams shortlisted for the second stage of the process will receive further briefing before creating their concept designs.

The shortlist will be announced towards the end of May. In late summer the concept designs will be displayed digitally and in a public exhibition at Clandon with opportunities for public and stakeholder feedback. Subsequently, the competition jury will meet to interview the teams, review the designs and select a winner. The winning team is expected to be announced in early autumn 2017.

Construction work is expected to begin by early 2019. Please visit the competition website for further updates as the project progresses.

Notes to editors

The National Trust

The National Trust is a conservation charity founded in 1895 by three people who saw the importance of our nation’s heritage and open spaces, and wanted to preserve them for everyone to enjoy. More than 120 years later, these values are still at the heart of everything the charity does.

Entirely independent of Government, the National Trust looks after more than 250,000 hectares of countryside, 775 miles of coastline and hundreds of special places across England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

More than 20 million people visit every year, and together with 4.5 million members and over 62,000 volunteers, they help to support the charity in its work to care for special places forever, for everyone.

Clandon Park

Since the fire in April 2015, National Trust specialists, supported by external consultants and contractors, have completed the enormous task of scaffolding, protecting and stabilising the house. In addition, significant surviving architectural features have been protected in-situ, and the rooms have been cleared of debris, up to eight feet high in places. This process was undertaken very carefully to recover both architectural fragments and items from the important historic collection.

Background / history

  • Clandon Park was one of the country’s most complete examples of a Palladian house designed by Venetian architect Giacomo Leoni (c.1686–1746). Its architectural and historic significance is recognised in its Grade I listing.
  • Clandon was one of only five surviving buildings by Leoni in England. Its decorative schemes were highly significant, particularly the ornate plaster ceilings attributed to European stuccadores Giuseppe Artari (d. 1769) and Giovanni Bagutti (1681–c.1730) and the Carrara marble overmantels by sculptor John Michael Rysbrack (1694–1770).
  • Leoni marked his arrival in England by publishing the first English translation of the work of his Venetian predecessor: architect Andrea Palladio (1508–1580). This had a significant cultural impact amongst English patrons and architects and brought Leoni to the attention of Lord Onslow, probably through the Duke of Kent, younger brother of George I. The arrival and adoption of authentic Palladianism brought an end to the English Baroque architectural style which had been prevalent since the Restoration.

The family at Clandon

  • Clandon was built for Thomas, 2nd Baron Onslow, to replace the Jacobean house his great-grandfather had acquired in 1641. The Onslows traditionally followed political careers; the three who served as Speakers of the House of Commons were commemorated in portraits in the Speakers’ Parlour which survived the fire.
  • Clandon Park was given to the National Trust in 1956, by Gwendolen Guinness, Lady Iveagh, the daughter of the 4th Earl. The house was refurbished during the 1960s to include a collection of 18th-century furniture and porcelain given to the National Trust, along with a generous endowment, by collector Hannah Gubbay.

Malcolm Reading Consultants

Malcolm Reading Consultants (MRC) is a strategic consultancy specialising in the selection of contemporary designers. MRC believes in the power of design to create new perceptions and act as an inspiration – either at the local level, or internationally.

MRC is the leading specialist in design competitions in Europe. Recent work includes competitions for the Illuminated River Foundation, the Museum of London, the gold medal-winning UK Pavilion at Milan Expo 2015, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, Tintagel Castle Bridge, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park’s Culture & Education Quarter, the Mumbai City Museum, the Natural History Museum and New College, Oxford.