Martello Tower Y / Piercy&Company

  • 04 Dec 2012
  • Houses Selected Works
© Edmund Sumner

Architects: Piercy&Company
Location: Suffolk, UK
Year: 2009
Photographs: Edmund Sumner

Industrial Designers: Billings Jackson Design
Structural Engineer: Price & Myers, JP Chick and Partners
Joinery: Sam Lucas
Facade Design: Billings Design Associates
Mechanical Engineer: Norman Disney & Young
Lighting: DHA Designs, Zumtobel
Steelwork: Commercial Systems International Limited
Client: Jackson Family

By restoring an 1802 Martello Tower and converting it to a family home, the principles of conservation were pushed beyond preservation, instead aiming to breathe new life into the ‘at risk’ structure.

© Edmund Sumner

Strategically the intention was to clearly differentiate the old and the new, avoiding pastiche, with the contemporary insertions touching the original fabric as lightly as possible; allowing the heavily textured masonry to be the star.  Designed to be extremely sensitive to the monument and its setting, the new curving roof extension and re-sculpted interior seek to gain creative momentum from the tension between modern requirements and the need for heritage conservation.

Roof Plan

Converting a Napoleonic era defence tower built in 1808 into a 21st Century private residence was a demanding brief. As a Scheduled Monument on the At Risk register and located in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the planning negotiations were matched in complexity by the on-site logistics. Ultimately however, the conversion won the support of English Heritage who heralded it as an exemplar of how to convert significant historical buildings.

© Edmund Sumner

Materials and Construction
The tower’s fabric comprises 750,000 bricks but the quality of their construction was not immediately evident. As it was revealed, it set the standard for the design. The new roof is a 3D curved lightweight structure, constructed of steel and laminated plywood, tethered by five pairs of Macalloy bars. A detailed 3D model was used to create 2D cutting patterns for off-site manufacture.  A skirt of frameless curved glass below the roof expresses the distinction between old and new as well as providing 360 degree views. The roof, set back to minimize visual impact, is clad in a single ply membrane with three roof lights. The system is elemental as it had to be stored and installed from the gun platform.

© Edmund Sumner

In order to bring light into the basement, six 450mm diameter holes were diamond-core drilled through 4.5m of fully bonded brickwork from just inside the window reveals into the magazine bedroom, utility, bunk room and bathrooms. The two other bedrooms have 60mm holes for ‘Camera Obscura’ views of the countryside to the southwest and northwest.

© Edmund Sumner

200mm diameter holes were drilled from the top of the parapet to meet the passive ventilation system leading to the ground floor and basement. These brick ducts provide routes for water, electricity, gas for the kitchen and heating to the roof. They also accommodate the supply and exhaust ducts for the heat recovery ventilation system in the basement and ground floors.

Cite: "Martello Tower Y / Piercy&Company" 04 Dec 2012. ArchDaily. Accessed 30 May 2015. <>