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John Dower House, Cheltenham:

a courtyard for later living brings city life to the heart of Cheltenham’s conservation area

Cheltenham, Gloucestershire
Project status:
Under construction

John Dower House is a ‘Later Living’ residential development located in Cheltenham’s central conservation area and immediately adjacent to the Grade II* listed Royal Crescent. The project enhances its historical setting by providing a new public thoroughfare through this backland site, bringing the life of the city to the heart of the project.  

Inspired by the town’s historic architecture and rich history, the proposal adopts a number of design strategies that integrate the project into its sensitive surroundings. Analysis of the existing context revealed an opportunity to create a new public pedestrian route through the site, diagonally linking St. George’s Place and Clarence Streets, before leading onto the tranquil landscape surrounding St. Mary’s Church.

The architectural language was conceived to enhance the differing urban characters of the surrounding streets and the inner courts, a typological precedent evident in other historic parts of the city. The site’s embedded location within an existing urban block provides an opportunity to deliver a sequence of hidden spaces linked by water; which includes a rill leading to a small water square. The ‘ad hoc’ nature of the existing fabric is reconciled by the proposed built form to provide clarity and structure to the new public realm. The theatrical qualities of this hidden space are further enhanced with distinctive balconies that include mini greenhouses, allowing for more active use and animation of these amenity spaces throughout the seasons.

The site includes the Grade II Listed John Dower House, as well as sitting adjacent to the Royal Crescent and St Matthews Church. The new structures are carefully configured to respond to the scale and form of the existing historic structures while maximising a southerly aspect for the new apartments. The proposed frontage along St. George’s Place is designed to respect the scale and rhythm of the Victorian façade belonging to adjacent Cantay House.

The proposed materials have been selected to respond directly to each façade’s immediate context. The St George’s Place façade will consist of a dominant palette of red brick, in reference to the brick facades of Cantay House and the former Crescent Bakery (which sit either side). The remaining facades visible from within the urban block will consist of white painted brickwork with white perforated brick panels. Timber elements found in balcony and window detailing are used as a ‘material thread’ linking each of the differing facades together.

The development will deliver 68 ‘Later Living’ dwellings alongside supporting facilities such as a communal lounge, landscaped courtyards and underground parking. To meet the needs of its older residents, all dwellings, circulation and shared spaces are designed to meet with relevant design codes and guidelines for wheelchair accessibility.