Located just outside Lancaster and close to the Forest of Bowland, this is a designated area of natural beauty. The former asylum has been transformed as part of a multi-million pound housing development by the PJ Livesey Group, and was shortlisted for the LABC NW Building Excellence Awards 2016.
Restoring Gothic architecture for contemporary living space
Once described by the writer Alan Bennett as a “gaunt grey penitentiary” due to its Gothic exterior, this huge behemoth of a quadrangular stone building had lain empty since 2000.
Three million pounds of investment for essential infrastructure work had already been made by the NW Homes & Communities Agency, who, working alongside English Heritage and Lancaster City Council, had been keen to unlock the buildings’ potential and add to the much needed local housing stock.
Manchester based PJ Livesey Group acquired the site from the HCA and successfully presented its Residence scheme to convert the Grade II Listed Building, as well as nearby Campbell House, into an attractive mix of carefully converted mews homes and modern apartments, finished to the highest specification.
Structural challenges for the water tower conversion
The conversion of the stone water tower, located above the imposing main entrance, presented a number of structural challenges for PJ Livesey.
There was a narrow spiral staircase leading up to two rooms at the top, and positioned high in the tower was a water tank containing ¼ million gallons of water. Before any construction work could take place these obstacles had to be carefully removed, ensuring no damage was caused to the fabric of the building.
A roof terrace was an integral element of the design of the planned water tower luxury apartment. This was crucial to capitalize on the panoramic views of the Fells of Bowland and Morecambe Bay, whilst also providing a generous amount of outdoor living space.
However the existing roof was deemed to be too high to offer safe barrier height for the intended roof terrace, in relation to the parapet walls.
Glass box rooflight solution for terrace access and aesthetics
Initially, a hinged Glazing Vision Skydoor rooflight was specified before PJ Livesey decided upon their innovative box rooflight, which was seen as offering superior head height and removed the requirement for installing a balustrade around the opening.
PJL needed to ensure that the building remained watertight as construction work progressed to the roof top phase. The solution was to build a new roof under the old one.
Once an aperture for the box rooflight was created, the old roof was removed. This then allowed for the smooth installation of the glass box rooflight,which had been prevision-engineered to PJL’s unique dimensions by Glazing Vision’s dedicated team.
The rooflight was fixed onto 3 walls and as such was enclosed within the existing fabric. No additional balustrading was required and the minimal structural framework of the box rooflight, supplied in a timeless powder-coated grey, guaranteed full use of the sizeable roof terrace and a seamless integration of the exterior and the interior.
The retractable glazed section, which slides over the fixed section of glass, is operated at the touch of a button. This provides a clear 50% opening and sufficient head height for easy access. The resident can thus climb the small stairwell whilst the rooflight is retracting into its open position, without having to “bow” his head.
The secure manual override also detects movement during the open/close operation to provide the all-important safety features. An access key pad also offers an additional benefit to the resident with regards to comfort and security.
In keeping with the development’s contemporary and airy aesthetics, the large glazed sections of the box roof light ensure that the interior is flooded with natural light during the day. The streamlined structure of the box rooflight externally ensures that the resident can enjoy unparalleled daytime views from this attractive roof terrace, over the fells, coastline and later can marvel at the night sky.
Recognition for the Lancaster Moor project
For PJ Livesey, their sensitive conversion of the Water Tower and development of the Residence at Lancaster Moor were recognized at the inaugural NW Insider Residential Property Awards in 2016 – they were named Bespoke & Urban Developer of the Year.