The long global financial downturn in the wake of 9/11 coincided with the opening of the new buildings and facilities of Barns Conference and Accommodation Centre in 2002, with the cost overruns that come with major new construction (which are especially challenging when weather-induced delays to completion and opening also delayed the essential generation of income); and with the add-on costs of commissioning and furnishing an all-new conference and accommodation facility to a high standard.
Alongside the all-new Barns House accommodation block there was also the core of the old building, around which the new archive and meeting facilities wrapped. Lovingly completed in 1976, it has remained, until recently, a time-capsule of 1970s carpets, fittings and furnishings.
In the financial conditions of the time the Trust took the decision to adopt a largely "mend and make-do" approach to maintenance and upkeep. By and large the buildings and grounds responded well, and remarkably creative things were done by the team to keep it in good repair. Inevitably, however, wear, tear and time took a toll which outstripped even the capacity of love and ingenuity to make good.
Two and a bit years ago the Trustees agreed that a major investment in the fabric and furnishings was urgently required to secure the buildings and facilities for the future, and to return the accommodation, in particular, to its previously high standard. They contracted with the multi-talented Simon Rossi to assess and carry out the work that was needed, while simultaneously living onsite. As Craig's posting from PETiTathon2015! Day One shows (if you missed it, CLICK HERE), that work is now reaching a crescendo, and soon even the 1970s time-capsule which runs above the Archive will have been completely transformed.
It is with that major investment in mind that we have entered into PETiTathon2015!; and with the hope - having seen what we have invested and done - that you will feel moved to invest and help us as well. Here's our story:
1. Renewing the old building and its wrap-around
What Simon found in the old building and its 2002 wrap-around indicated the urgent need of renewal and repair. Replacing damaged and rotting sections; re-roofing; renewing, installing and painting new trim and facing; rebuilding window-frames...AND creating a new, harmonious colour-scheme throughout the site. When you visit, have a look at the whites: Are they white? And how do they play off adjoining colours? A great deal of design expertise and thought went into this.
2. Re-creating the main meeting hall: Before, During and After
The middle picture can only begin to indicate the richness of planning and work that has gone into re-creating the main Conference Centre meeting room, from a new skin to provide sound and heat insulation, to new lighting and boards, to what you don't see here: a classic and well-used 1970s parquet floor meticulously sanded, filled, repaired, prepared, massaged with specialist oil, and made to sing. Have a good look the next time you're in.
3. Barns House: Before and During After
Apart from a major renewal within our major accommodation building, Barns House (see the collage immediately below!), Simon found he had major work to do to the outside of the building. Compare these two photographs: what differences can you see?
What you won't see is the damage and wear-and-tear to all of the wooden window frames right around the building - all of which had to be removed, renewed, in some cases rebuilt, and then restored to their rightful places. All done while bookings were still coming in, and working around groups which were using Barns Centre for events and retreats. (Did you notice?)
4. Accommodation after
All new carpeting throughout Barns House. Walls repaired, sanded, painted. Doors individually addressed and treated. Banisters removed, cared for and restored. Stairs carpeted for the first time since the building opened in 2002. Beautiful.
5. And other things
The life of a grounds and buildings in living use is a complex thing. Birds fly into recently-renewed windows, and shatter them. Ancient forgotten pipes leading nowhere, and with no logical connection to anything, inexplicably exhale noxious fumes from time to time over several years - until finally tracked down, laboriously analysed, and made right. Air conditioning for the archive store needs new housing. And so on and so on. Your gift to us, if you make one, helps to deal with all this - the routine, and the unexpected.
Having seen what goes into renewal and upkeep of the place - can you help?
Our quick and concise fundraising appeal
You can vote for more like this by donating to PETT, and telling us why:
PETiTathon2015! Day Two:
2.2b Oral History: Dr. John Coleman OBE, recorded 2 November 1994: Working with Refugees and Displaced Persons