In London, GB, Ptolemy Dean’s architects have added a seven stories tall tower to a Westminster Abbey. The Weston Tower is the first significant addition to the gothic structure since 1745.
The Weston Tower has been built to provide access to the rarely-visited Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Galleries housing royal and religious artifacts dating back thousands of years. Previously exhibition space could only be reached via a steep, cramped staircase. Also, the triforium provides breath-taking views across the abbey, enabling its architecture to be seen without the obstruction of monuments and furnishings and thereby readily understood.
Critics identified the style of the Weston Tower as a “Sci-fi gothic” or “steampunk gothic” architecture.
The new tower is situated outside Poets’ Corner, tucked between Abbey’s thirteenth century Chapter House and sixteenth-century Lady Chapel. The design takes inspiration from a pattern often found in the Abbey: a star shape derived from two rotating squares.
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The steel-frame tower is composed of two stacked square volumes, one of which has been rotated at a 45-degree angle to create a star-shaped floor plate. This is intended as a visual nod towards the star motifs seen on the decorative altar screens of St Faith’s Chapel and on the stained glass windows of the abbey.
At the peak of the new addition sits a steel crown. This has been designed in reference to the crossing tower of Cambridgeshire’s 11th-century Ely Cathedral, which is topped by a faceted light-emitting structure called a lantern.
The Ely lantern is a timber-framed structure that is clad in lead and whose piers also conceal rainwater pipes. The new Weston Tower at Westminster follows this same tradition, albeit using steel instead.
The tower is functional; at the center of the tower is a lift, designed to accommodate disabled visitors and careers. Around it wraps a dog-leg oak staircase, which is illuminated by patterned panels of glazing that have been inserted between the towers’ steel columns.
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