Design Engine UoW Chapel Interior

Winton Chapel

University of Winchester
Completed 2017

A renovation and extension of the University’s Victorian Chapel to commemorate their 175th anniversary

In 2015 the University commissioned Design Engine Architects to oversee a complete restoration of its internal and external fabric. In addition, the University asked for an extension to the chapel, to include a small side chapel and a social and meeting space. The brief was to create a very special project, to sit as a small ‘jewel’ in the heart of the campus.

The project was to renovate and extend the University’s Victorian Chapel to be one of the most visible expressions of the celebrations to commemorate the 175th anniversary.

Originally built in 1880, and then extended in 1927, the Chapel at the University of Winchester plays a vital role in University life for students, staff and members of the community. It is a centre of worship and discussion, open to people of all faiths and of none – it can be a place of quiet contemplation, those seeking support or a guiding hand when they need it most, as well as a place of joy and celebration.

The Chapel is used for a number of different events and purposes – these include concerts by the Foundation Music choirs and ensembles, and being a war memorial for the two World Wars, it acts as a focal point for both reflection and remembrance.

Design Engine UoW Chapel Interior altar
Design Engine UoW Chapel Interior Font and altar
University of Winchester's Winton Chapel and Side chapel Exterior

Interior Restoration


RIBA Award, Regional South, Winner


AJ Retrofit Award, Cultural Buildings, Finalist


Civic Voice Award, Overall & Historic Buildings Category, Winner


RICS Award, Conservation, Shortlist


The interior of the original gothic revival chapel has been returned to its former glory with renovation work to the walls and timber ceiling alongside the introduction of new oak and stone floors, heating and architectural lighting.

The university chose locally sourced Purbeck limestone, a material traditionally used for its decorative quality in churches and cathedrals across England, exploiting the natural characteristics of the embedded fossils within it. The original tiled frieze and angels on the Eastern wall has been restored behind the reinstated chancel steps.

The Altar

A new contemporary altar was introduced, made from 7 horizontal sections of Purbeck stone. The seven sections make reference to number imagery within the Christian faith, as well as a celebration of the university’s anniversary; the stone sections also representing the seven 25 year time periods that make up the 175 years of the institution.

Design Engine UoW Chapel Interior Font
The Font

A new font was also commissioned greeting visitors on entering from the South door. Designed to reflect light within the interior spaces, the font basin, made from highly polished stainless steel, is a section of a sphere, a reference to “light of the world”. The basin is supported on a polished Purbeck limestone cylindrical plinth.

Design Engine UoW Chapel Interior Font
The new font
Bespoke Oak Furniture

A number of bespoke oak furniture pieces were also commissioned from and designed in collaboration with Luke Hughes, most notably the oak pews, lecturn, credenza storage units, bookcases and tables.

Design Engine UoW Chapel Interior

Side Chapel Extension

Winton Chapel side chapel cut-trhough diagram

The obvious location for the extension was to the north of the main Chapel; despite the site constraints, the resulting design is an empathetic response to the gothic revival building where its connection, form and materiality seem both intuitive and exciting.

The design consists of a pitched roof structure that mirrors that of the existing building and allows light to penetrate into the perimeter exterior spaces. The ridge over-sails the existing building eaves line creating a clerestory window that provides both light and ventilation at high level. The plan form creates a twist in the pitched roof bringing an intriguing geometric dynamic to the new addition.

The form lent itself to a timber frame structure — a series of primary wall and roof trusses, each one different to create the changing form. Externally, the form is clad with perforated aluminium panels, anodized to give a highly reflective ‘gold’ finish, giving a dramatic textural surface to the building that is continuous over both roof and wall, allowing the building to be interpreted at different distances and scales.

We developed a pattern referential to the existing architecture and an interpretation appropriate for the 21st century.

Design Engine UoW Chapel Light Study
Design Engine UoW Chapel Plan
Design Engine UoW Chapel Model Shot
Design Engine UoW Chapel Model Shot of Exterior Cladding Pattern

Design Development

The Side Chapel is conceived as a reliquary box—the metalwork casket commonly used in medieval times to preserve and deify the remains of saints. These boxes often took the form of a rectangular base with vertical sides topped by two sloping top faces, meeting at a central ridge adorned with a raised strip and decoration. The box thus resembled a miniature house or tomb, and the lavish decoration of gold and jewels expressed the sacred nature of its contents.

We studied the geometry of the gothic tracery within the east and west windows of the existing chapel to source a pattern that is referential to the existing architecture, and an interpretation appropriate for the 21st century. Working with cladding specialists we are developing a bespoke perforated panel in gold anodized aluminium with the pattern water jet cut to leave a smooth finished surface. The panels are cradled above a black and recessive single ply waterproof membrane.

The perforate surface allows us to moderate how light penetrates the walls. We tested the effect of coloured glass and light through the patterned surface with multiple study models.

Design Engine UoW Chapel Aerial Site Plan


Design Team

main contractor:
RV Dart

structural engineer:
Paul Tanner Associates

lighting consultant:
Chris Reading

The project has featured in films produced by the main contractor RV Dart which follows the construction process from start to completion. ‘Thats Hampshire’ also features an interview with Director, David Gausden.

This is a sensitive refurbishment, restoration and extension of an un-listed Victorian chapel, within the heart of the University campus. The jury felt it was particularly encouraging to see a building from the Victorian era being sensitively treated as a heritage asset to be cared for, with previous harm undone. The additions enhanced the whole, and were readily distinct from the original. A clever project, with an impact beyond its scale.

RIBA South Awards 2017, DEsign Jury