Niall McLaughlin Architects has won a competition for a £17m two-storey annexe and welcome building at Auckland Castle, County Durham, which is being called “the most pivotal transformation” of the medieval stronghold in 300 years.
Anne Schroell of Niall McLaughlin Architects told onoffice that the new buildings would be modern interpretations of the castle’s architectural style, although the plans have yet to be submitted. Building work is set to begin next year and the completion date is pencilled in for 2018.
The former home of the bishops of Durham, the castle is considered to be the most historically significant ecclesiastical complex in Europe after the Vatican and Avignon. It will be refurbished by Purcell UK, which has also been involved in the conservation of the cathedrals in Canterbury, Ely and Wells.
The project is part of millionaire philanthropist Jonathan Ruffer’s plans to transform the castle into a national museum of religion and religious art, and a major heritage attraction. The main draw will be the 12 full-length paintings of Jacob and his sons by Spanish Baroque artist Francisco de Zurbaran, which have hung in the castle for 250 years.
The Auckland Castle Trust hopes the museum will help the castle to attract more than 130,000 visitors a year.