Purcell was commissioned by OMC Investments to reconstruct the Grade I listed Cupola House, in the centre of Bury St Edmunds’ historic market area, following a devastating fire which destroyed all but the basement, main façade and small areas of the ground, first and second floors.
As a popular restaurant, and prior to that a pub for many decades, much of Cupola House’s significance was in its communal use. As one of the most dominant buildings in the Bury St Edmunds townscape, there was also significant aesthetic value. Much of the historic fabric was destroyed by the fire, so the aesthetic and communal value were the most crucial factors to restore when reconstructing the building.
A scholarly investigation into the archaeology of the building revealed thorough records that became vital pieces of evidence when ensuring the reconstruction used correct profiles for panel mouldings, which were different in most rooms. The character and aesthetics replicated those that had existed pre-fire.
A significant challenge was ensuring that current fire safety standards were incorporated, particularly given the historic layout of the building. Fire-resistant construction and fire-rated glass partitions isolate the central staircase, creating a safe escape route from the upper floors and also allowing the second floor, which had previously been unusable, to be brought into public use.
A further technical challenge was the instability of surviving structural and architectural elements, and how they would be stabilised by and integrated into the new structural frame and building envelope. Working with a range of specialist conservators and craftspeople, a number of surviving elements have been protected in situ or reinstated, even if they cannot be seen in the finished building, to secure as much of the surviving historic fabric as possible.
The award-winning project was completed in 2017