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From quickly adapting to new working methods, through to the successes of our people, and award-winning projects, our teams have continued to service our clients and deliver outstanding design and heritage projects throughout the year. While 2020 has brought its challenges, this year can be recognised by its achievements across both local and high-profile projects, which offer great cause for celebration.

Purcell's Staff Day Out 2019

Our successes stem from our personnel who make up the rich tapestry of knowledge that defines our practice. We’re very proud that Partner Jane Kennedy was appointed an Order of the British Empire (OBE) — an award which recognises her outstanding work in architecture, conservation, and heritage. We’re also delighted that many of our colleagues have recently qualified as Architects, and several have gained their accreditations as AABC, RIBA SCA or CA accredited Architects, further exemplifying Purcell’s continued conservation excellence. As we head towards the New Year, 2021 heralds a historic step in Purcell’s history, as we make the transition to Employee Ownership. This year, our new trustees have enjoyed their first year in post, prior to our formal transition in early 2021.

Despite the year’s challenges, the speed at which our staff adapted to the change in circumstances has been outstanding. From our IT team, through to our technical — at a drop of a hat — we've continued to work effectively with very little disruption.

Peter Buist, Partner
Kresen Kernow

This year many projects have seen national and international acclaim through winning or being shortlisted for a range of prestigious awards. Kresen Kernow has environmental and social sustainability at its core, and since opening, has welcomed a diverse range of visitors, and will provide a catalyst for further development in Redruth, Cornwall. We’re thrilled that the building is shortlisted for the upcoming Civic Trust Award 2021, in addition to the 2021 RIBA Awards.

Holyhead Market Hall

In the hospitality sector, The Glasshouse at the Grove Hotel won the International Hotel and Property Awards - European Restaurant Within an Existing Hotel. The award commends design and offers inspiration across the hospitality industry.

In Wales, Holyhead Market Hall won the RICS Social Impact Awards 2020 (Wales) in the heritage category. Our team led the regeneration of the former market hall into a new community and learning centre, and the award illustrates the building’s direct positive social and environmental impact on the local community.

2021 has some exciting developments in store for the hospitality sector, especially with Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons, as well as with other project developments evolving at Danesfield House, all following on from our flagship project at Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park.

Jeremy Blake, Head of Hospitality

The social value of our work continues to be an important part of Purcell’s philosophy, and has not ceased due to Covid-19 restrictions. However, focus has shifted to provide digital learning activities, for example, our team working on Manchester Town Hall, have delivered a range of webinars, encouraging skill development across diverse communities.

In the West, our Oxford studio supported ‘micro-internships’ enabling students at the beginning of their careers to develop insight into the world of heritage consultancy. We’ve also enjoyed supporting many charities, including The Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust, where we’ve joined the Building Futures Mentoring Programme, providing guidance and supporting students in their future career.

The Story Museum

Many projects have achieved significant milestones despite a challenging year, one of which is The Story Museum in Oxford. Cleverly adapted from a collection of historic buildings, the museum is a spirited and fun-loving fully accessible museum dedicated to storytelling, and we’re delighted that it successfully opened this year.

St Catherine’s College

Also, in Oxford, we completed work on the design of a Graduate Centre, while adding an extension to existing student accommodation pavilions for The University of Oxford’s St Catherine’s College. The design creates a £10m contemporary addition for the college’s community and maximises the potential of the constrained site, which sits in Oxford’s green belt and flood zone.

Nottingham Castle

Many projects are close to completion, including Reimagining Wordsworth where we have restored Dove Cottage, once home to Romantic poet William Wordsworth, while enhancing the site with a newly designed and sensitive visitor centre. In the East, our team have designed a new gallery experience and visitor centre for Nottingham Castle to enhance the castle’s offer while repairs to its historic fabric have preserved 1,000 years of architectural and cultural history.

We’ll see many projects across the commercial sector continuing into 2021. In collaboration with WilkinsonEyre, we’re working on Battersea Power Station to rediscover Sir Giles Gilbert Scott’s original vision and secure its sustainable future, while in Northampton, we’re converting a former Boot and Shoe factory at Vulcan Works to create a start-up space for new businesses.

Alasdair Travers, Head of Design
Peter Jones. Impression of the restoration proposals. Image courtesy of Sergison Bates Architects

Despite 2020’s budget cuts, we see a continued confidence from our clients to invest in projects, allowing us to continue to win and secure new work for next year, and beyond. During lockdown, we received planning and listed building consent for John Lewis and Partners’ Peter Jones Department Store, where we are leading proposals for repairing and enhancing the buildings’ 1930s and 1960s façades, restoring the historic architecture to its former glory. There have been a number of landmark wins this year, one of which is the Brunel Museum, where in collaboration with Tate Harmer, we are leading the planning phase and have delivered first scheduled monument consent.

We’re looking forward to seeing many projects going onto site in 2021, including The National Portrait Gallery. The new year will see many landmark projects continuing, including our work on Manchester Museum, Burghley House masterplan, St Anthony College’s Hilda Besse, and Elizabeth Tower.

Liz Smith, Head of Architecture

Our heritage consultancy services have also flourished despite the restrictions of the pandemic, and our Oxford team won the Heritage Consultancy of the Year Awards, having worked on a number of fantastic projects this year including the Oxford colleges. In the North, we worked closely with the York Minster Chapter to produce a development brief for a new mason's yard masterplan, and draft neighborhood plan. While in Northern Ireland, we completed a substantial assessment on over 40 estate buildings in Mount Stewart for our client, The National Trust.

Natural History Museum scheme. Credit: Feilden Fowles

In London, our team have worked on the Natural History Museum Urban Nature project, streaming advice into the contemporary scheme designed by Feilden Fowles which will see Waterhouse’s building reimagined. We’re also thrilled that EMD Walthamstow has recently won the New London Architecture Award’s Unbuilt Conserving Prize where our team provided heritage consultancy and conservation architecture advice for the bold new re-imagining of the II*-listed interwar cinema.

We have also completed Royal Palaces Conservation Management Plans, in addition to two of England’s most iconic Post-War places of worship – Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral and Coventry Cathedral which will inform the sensitive management of change for the next decade.

In Tamworth, we’re developing a masterplan to revitalise how people experience the town, while across the UK, we’re working with Historic England to support the management and understanding of listed buildings within the Historic High Street Heritage Action Zones. Throughout the project, we are managing sustainable futures for significant historic sites while responding to the locally distinctive character of our towns and cities.

Turning towards the future, while none of us know what 2021 will bring, we are confident that Purcell’s heritage-led approach to the historic environment is vital to unlocking potential and opportunity. A new year beckons, and with it, optimism for the future as we continue to work with new clients who value our expertise.

Rebecca Burrows, Associate and Heritage Team Leader

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