THE WATERTOWER

The project is a conversion of, and extension to, a landmark existing Grade II listed water tower on Cyncoed Road, Cardiff to create a single family dwelling. The existing red brick tower was constructed in 1898 and it’s original use was as a pumping station for the covered reservoir adjacent, now removed.

The visual strength and beauty of the Watertower is such that any addition made to it should be distinctly different, contrasting in form, massing and material in order not to compromise the original structure.

The proposal comprises a 2-storey ‘T’ shaped extension, composed to give horizontal emphasis, lying low against the verticality of the tower. The contemporary elements are clearly defined both in form and in terms of material selection and are located primarily to the rear of the tower and remain subservient to it.

The new construction is aesthetically detached from the tower, which was achieved by inserting a glazed sleeve at the point where the new touches the existing. By creating a glazed gap at this interface a visually seamless passage between inside and out is achieved and this also maintains the independence and integrity of the tower. The exposed existing red brickwork of the Watertower at this location is left expressed internally, in the 2-storey glazed hallway, to reinforce this inside/outside continuity and the separation of old and new. The first floor connection is via a ‘bridge’ linking the new extension to the old watertower across the double height void space.

The external roof terrace at the top of the tower serves as an observation space. From there fantastic views across the city and towards the Bristol Channel and beyond can be appreciated. Also from the roof terrace it is possible to see down through the walk-on rooflight and into the 3-storey void running the height of the tower.

Apart from introducing tall, slit windows into the existing masonry recesses, the tower itself remains virtually unaltered from the public domain. Extensive refurbishment and sensitive repair work was however required and undertaken on the existing brickwork to return the tower to it’s former glory.

Materials for the finishes of the new-build element are red clay facing brickwork to the lower storey walls. These walls are designed to extend beyond the envelope of the new building, creating the impression of being an enclosing garden wall. This is reinforced further by separating the upper storey of the new extension by a continuous frameless horizontal strip of clerestorey glazing, allowing the lighter 1st floor to float completely detached from the wall. The garden wall also acts as a division line between front and back enabling the tower to stand in it’s own courtyard space, to retain it’s independence. 

By reflecting the red brickwork of the tower in this new wall we have created a visual reference but, despite closely matching the colour of the brickwork and mortar, the wall is constructed using metric masonry and stretcher bond and is detailed in a crisp, clear and contemporary fashion.

At first floor level the extension has been handled differently, faced in pre-oxidised horizontal copper strips, which will range in colour over time from deep red brown through to anthracite and patina green according to orientation and degree of exposure, paying more reference to the natural landscape than to the existing Watertower. The changing colour and surface finish of the copper is visually reinforced by the internal copper sliding screen to the master bedroom which, when closed, exhibits the material as it was when it was installed protected from the elements.