Scheme to transform Bodmin Jail into hotel and museum attraction wins green light
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Scheme to transform Bodmin Jail into hotel and museum attraction wins green light

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Twelve Architects’ proposals to redevelop Bodmin Jail into a new hotel, visitor attraction and teaching facility have been granted planning consent following a unanimous decision by Cornwall Council.

The Grade II listed jail currently operates as an attraction and venue on Britain’s Cornish coast, but many of the buildings are in a ruinous state.

Twelve Architects scheme will see the complete refurbishment of the two wings of derelict cell blocks to house 63 hotel rooms. Working with the existing structure, each ensuite bedroom will be formed from three cells and interiors will feature colours and textures inspired by the aged, weathered stone.

A glazed rooflight running the length of both wings will create the hotel’s central atrium “and will enable the magical, naturally lit quality of the ruin to be retained.” An external lift and core, both clad in charred timber, will be added to improve circulation.

The existing Governor’s Hall will remain as the main venue and restaurant space, but will be refurbished and upgraded.

The renovation work will be complemented by a new 1,200sq m building housing an attraction called ‘Dark Walk’. Formed of a sequence of themed rooms containing scenic sets, films and projections, this is designed to immerse visitors in the history of the area and experience the life of the jail’s 18th and 19th century inmates.

According to the architects, the new structure will be clad using stone gabions: “a mesh of stainless steel cages containing hand-laid stones from a quarry situated on the same rock seam as was used for the original building.”

“Across the building, a pattern of gabions sitting forward and back of the facades, break up the massing and echo the fenestration of the jail building,” they added.

Twelve Architects are working with a team including museum consultants Sarner International, engineers Arup, and project management firm Turner & Townsend. Enabling works on the £30m (US$38.8m. €34m) project will start on site in Q3, with the project due for completion in 2019.

“We’re delighted at the level of support for the scheme from the council and the local community,” said Matt Cartwright, Twelve Architects’ founding director. “This project will be important to Bodmin, bringing an important part of its heritage back to life and providing facilities for local people as well as for visitors. We’re looking forward to taking the project forward.”

Bodmin Jail was built in 1779 and operated through to 1927, hosting 50 public hangings during that time. The prison complex, most of it now in ruins, has been used as a site for ghost walks and other visitor activities and exhibitions for a number of years.

Historic jails and prisons have emerged as an unlikely source of inspiration for hospitality developers in recent years.

Developers are trying to turn Northern Ireland's notorious Armagh Gaol into a luxury hotel and spa; the newly-opened Courthouse Hotel in Shoreditch, London, is located a former court building and features a cocktail bar in the cells; and a former fortress and concentration camp on an island in Montenegro is set to be turned into a luxury resort and spa after a controversial planning proposal was accepted by the government.

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Twelve Architects’ proposals to redevelop Bodmin Jail into a new hotel, visitor attraction and teaching facility have been granted planning consent following a unanimous decision by Cornwall Council.
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