Designed by Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios, the Abbey is a new home for the Conventus of Our Lady of Consolation, a Benedictine community of nuns who devote their lives to study, work and prayer. The nuns live a simple, disciplined life, and the new building – which won the Education and Public Sector Award in the 2016 Wood Awards - reflects this in every way. The nuns attend church service six times a day from before sunrise to sunset and chose the remote location, in peaceful woodland at the edge of the North York Moors, for its “special quality of silence and light”.
The new church derives its plan from two intersecting axes significant in the liturgy of the church, its organic form rose out of the modest orthogonal domestic architecture of the abbey. Its interior celebrates the diurnal changes in daylight and takes advantage of the dramatic views. As the architect explains: “Our intention was that this space – their home for so much of their lives – should change throughout the day and with the light and the seasons.”
Delivered within a modest budget of £7.5million and completed over two phases, the new spaces include private cells, a refectory and associated kitchen, work rooms, a meeting place for before/after chapel services, guest spaces and a community church and chapel. Preference was given to renewable, recycled or low energy materials.
The north wall of the church rises from the congregational entrance and curves upwards to a high point above the altar, evoking what the nuns refer to ‘as a sense of transcendence’. The south wall is composed of a series of slender spruce glulam columns with glazing between them. The columns are set at 60-degree angles along the wall to reflect and filter the light. The glazing frames are concealed so that the glass appears to span from column to column. To enhance its effectiveness as solar shading, each column has an integral non-structural glulam fin, which extends externally, clad with vertical oak boards.
The organic, curved forms of both the church and the chapel were formed from 250mm thick reinforced concrete walls, cast in-situ. They are clad with an insulated rainscreen of 125 x 25mm sawn untreated oak boards. The glulam beams on the south wall are supported by a series of glulam columns with curtain wall glazing between. The vertical shear of the beam is carried by direct bearing of the section onto each glulam column.
2016 Wood Awards - Education & Public Sector Award Winner
2016 RIBA National Awards - Winner.
2016 RIBA Regional Building of the Year Award - Winner.
2016 RIBA Yorkshire Awards - Winner, Yorkshire Building of the Year.
TRADA - technical case study