Abbey House is the most well-preserved medieval dwelling in private hands in Cambridge. Nicholas Ray Associates were commissioned by Cambridge City Council to prepare feasibility studies prior to its sale on the open market. Subsequently we worked for the new owners, the Windhorse Trust, and undertook repair work and insertion of a new dormer window and staircase to the attic rooms. Covenants held on the property by the National Trust meant that our work was subject to scrutiny from their panel as well as from conservation officers and the inspector from English Heritage.
We have been able to transform the way our clients live by remodelling and extending the rear and side of their terraced house in north Cambridge. The boundary to the side of the house was flanked by a two storey unfenestrated brick wall that cut out valuable south light. The challenge therefore was to create a series of contemporary spaces related to the garden, without cutting out too much light from the centre of the house. We achieved this through the use of roof lights and generous windows facing the garden. The existing corner wall was retained at ground floor to reduce the need for new structure The retained pier was clad in oak to form an object that straddles inside and outside and a bookcase was created within the box adjacent to a generous window seat.
Priors Hall is a 14th Century House near Stansted, set within a large landscaped garden, to which a large extension was added in the late 20th Century to accommodate an indoor swimming pool. The brief was to provide a new pool with additional changing facilities, sauna and bar. Our proposals include the creation of a semi-subterranean pool addressing the lower garden ponds, and a raised south facing terrace defined by a colonnade that provides covered access to a new pavilion.
This study library was created for the graduate college of Clare Hall out of a former billiard room, an addition to a house by Edward Prior on Grange Road, Cambridge. The library design responds to the Arts and Craft character of the existing building and creates a mixture of separate studies and open reading spaces.
Dan Cruickshank, writing in The Architects Journal reported:
“The problem that faced Nicholas Ray is familiar to most architects. With a limited budget he had to create, within an existing building, an interior of architectural quality…” Cruickshank concluded that we had produced “a harmonious reading room of remarkable tranquillity”.
We worked with the artist Issam Kourbaj and John Harris, and the structural engineer Philip Cooper, on this proposal for a new spire on the tower of Great St Mary’s church, Cambridge. The spire was to contain a camera obscura to allow distant views of the surrounding landscape. Edward Blore had proposed such a spire in the 19th century, but this would have been a temporary installation, conceived as part of the University’s 800th anniversary celebrations. The RIBA Journal reported enthusiastically on the proposals in October 2006, in an article entitled “Scuse me while I kiss the sky”.
Detailed investigations of the octagonal towers of the church, one of which contains a spiral staircase, revealed that it was impossible to insert a second stair in any of the other towers, and this made it too difficult to gain access for the numbers of visitors necessary to make the project financially viable.
“This is a very successful addition to a thatched cottage in Hampshire. The Extension is undoubtedly a great contrast to the brick, flint and thatch building and represents a clear decision to establish the new work as an architectural entity in its own right. Nicholas Ray has designed an elegant, light pavilion alongside the substantial more earth-bound cottage. The architect has provided a conservatory and pergola as a base for gardening and a bright and sunny studio room for indoor pursuits. All these activities are confined to the easily run extension leaving the old cottage as a repaired, comfortable series of living rooms. This simple, clear-cut solution to the problem posed by the brief has within it more complex aesthetic benefits. It is unlikely that any attempt to build ‘in keeping’, ie with flint and thatch, would have been successful. Instead, while designing a new building of great integrity, great care has been taken to site the extension where it will fit best. The ramped earth bank holds the new building firmly to the ground and minimises its scale. The reflective double-glazing of the studio reflects the trees and sky and helps the new building to recede into the landscape. This is a beautifully detailed job.”