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Purcell is delighted to announce that the VITA student village at St Joseph’s Convent in York has been shortlisted for the regional RIBA awards.

Located within the grounds of the former Grade II listed St. Joseph’s Convent, the new student village was designed for Select Property Group by Fuse Studios. Purcell’s conservation architects provided planning and heritage consultancy advice up to completion.

The new accommodation has created 644 bedrooms across 15 new buildings and three Grade II listed buildings. The main Grade II convent now forms the heart of the student experience as the main communal space ‘The Hub’. The convent and chapel has been converted into group and individual study rooms, movie rooms, gaming rooms and private dining rooms, all arranged around the cloister courtyard. An additional block to the south has been converted into further accommodation.

The convent was originally designed by Sir George Goldie, an influential Catholic ecclesiastical architect. Construction started c.1870 and until 2014, the convent was home to an enclosed order of Poor Clare Colettines, who settled in York from Belgium in 1864. The unadorned Gothic style was inspired by medieval monastic examples. 

The simple and austere nature of the building’s architecture and internal decorative schemes was untouched, providing a tangible illustration of rare monastic architecture and how the nuns would have lived their entire lives within an enclosed order. The report has been fundamental to ensuring a sensitive new use for the listed buildings across the convent site, and that new development within the landscape respected historic character areas and boundaries. Retention of the high enclosure walls, the nuns burial ground and garden areas, such as the orchard, was crucial to a sensitive scheme.

The cloister courtyard, now in used as the student Hub. Photography: David Lindsay, Select Property Group & Vita York

Purcell’s Heritage Consultancy team was involved in research and investigations into this largely undocumented site, producing a heritage statement and condition survey to inform repairs to be undertaken and the principles for new design and provided the designs up to RIBA Stage 4. The architectural team at Purcell was responsible for design proposals for the conversion of the three Listed buildings on the site (The Lodge, Extern house and Chapel with cloister).

The new build accommodation attached to the Listed building within the gardens. Photography: David Lindsay, Select Property Group & Vita York

The simple and austere nature of the building’s architecture and internal decorative schemes was untouched, providing a tangible illustration of rare monastic architecture and how the nuns would have lived their entire lives within an enclosed order. The report has been fundamental to ensuring a sensitive new use for the listed buildings across the convent site, and that new development within the landscape respected historic character areas and boundaries. Retention of the high enclosure walls, the nuns burial ground and garden areas, such as the orchard, was crucial to a sensitive scheme.

By Jess McCulloch

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