by STIRworldFeb 16, 2022
The 800-year-old Clifford's Tower in York, England, which sits high above the city as the only remaining architectural remnant of the medieval Norman Castle, has received fantastical makeover by London-based practices Hugh Broughton Architects and Martin Ashley Architects. The project comprises key conservation works as well as building additions to enhance people's experience at this ruin which is known for its notorious history.
Erected on the orders of William I in 1068, for centuries Clifford's Tower served as the keep and chief strongpoint of the castle. Over the last few decades, the site suffered a strange reception of people. Though it received footfall in huge numbers, many people described their experience as poor, boring, too expensive, and underwhelming. Except for the magnificent views of the city that the tower offers, the climb as well as the structure itself people felt had little regard for visitors. And this resulted in them never paying a second visit. Clifford’s Tower is a place of many stories, but its state of architecture combined with a lack of maintenance as well as closure of most of its key spaces for the public never let the architecture speak to people. Speaking of the past, in 1190, the tower was the site of one of the worst anti-Semitic massacres of the Middle Ages, when several members of a Jewish community who were trapped here by a violent mob chose suicide over mass murder. Its interiors were also gutted by a massive fire in 1684, the time when the site was used to store armaments and gun powder. The tower was reduced to nothing but an empty shell which segued into nothing but disappointment.
With an aim to revive the lost heritage of Clifford’s Tower, the interventions by Hugh Broughton Architects and Martin Ashely Architects include a free-standing timber deck within the tower’s interiors, supported on four timber columns. The structure of the deck is made up of a series of lightweight walkways that allow access to previously unseen features on the first floor, in addition to an amphitheatre seating for people. The deck also opens up entry to the roof through the restoration of two bartizan vices. Elsewhere, the design team shares, “The chapel has also been restored, with stonework cleaned, unsightly timber bracing removed, and the roof repaired and re-clad in clay tiles.”
"The timber deck and suspended walkways,” as per Hugh Broughton Architects, “improve access, introduce visitors to previously unseen historic fabric, allow more time to enjoy the spectacular views of York and complement the special character of Clifford’s Tower.”
On the outside, entryway to the tower also sees a major uphaul. On the existing stair up the motte, new handrails and three resting points for people to pull off to the side to sit down have been added. An enlarged public area feature at the base of the motte serves as a place to engage those unable to take the hike. Facilities like route maps and facts about the history of the tower has also been integrated along the landscape design. “The existing fabric has been carefully conserved, and enhanced interpretation introduces visitors to the many stories associated with the tower and the wider castle precincts,” adds Hugh Broughton Architects, a firm specialising in the heritage sector and the design of research stations in extreme locations.
The £5m restoration is commissioned by English Heritage – a British charity organisation that manages over 400 historic buildings including prehistoric sites, medieval castles, and Roman forts. The revised look of the Clifford’s Tower was unveiled to the public on April 02, 2022.