In a small English village, in the folds of the chalk hills below ‘The Ridgeway’, Britain’s oldest road, is Lower Mill – one of two village mills recorded in the Domesday book. Lower Mill is a Grade II listed, late eighteenth-century structure which, despite various alterations and extensions, has retained the attributes of a water mill – with Victorian milling machinery and water wheel still intact.
When McLaren.Excell were originally approached, rather than managing a restoration and conversion they wanted to preserve as much of the original features as possible, teasing new life out of the historic building while transforming it from water mill to home.
Demonstrating their purity of craft and mastery of architectural fundamentals, McLaren.Excell have made a minimal yet emphatic contribution to the mill which blends with the fabric of the building. The mill’s industrial origins were the most important consideration and their design decisions draw on these beginnings. Like the mill itself, their work is simple, functional and honest. Raw plate steel was chosen as the primary material throughout the original mill, and is a key ingredient used in their restoration. Their material selection is distinctive but not indulgent. The simple palette: a painted surface, stone, concrete, timber or metal, are used in surprising and unexpected ways.
The subtlety of their approach demonstrates their complete understanding of material, light, surface, composition and sense of human interaction.