New Place Project Manager, Julie Crawshaw, provides a fascinating insight into the plans for Shakespeare’s final home.
The New Place project is gearing up for a major stage in its development. The initial scheme proposed was not quite right so the Trust sought out new designers to help with the work on the footprint of Shakespeare’s house. We appointed Chris Wise from Expedition Engineering (of London Velodrome fame) and Tim O’Brien, artistic associate of the RSC. The brief was to interpret the footprint, create a beautiful place of contemplation and understanding, tell the story of Shakespeare – the family man, business man and writer – and above all, respect the Grade II listed park and garden status of the site.
We also had some constraints: a budget of just over £5 million (and a fundraising target to match) for the whole works, including the exhibition centre in Nash’s House; a clear instruction from English Heritage to maintain historical accuracy; a strong line from the people of Stratford not to impede on the treasured views of the Guild Chapel and lastly, a very important date. The whole thing has to be open and glorious on 23 April 2016. Quite a challenge! To achieve this, the Trust has to leap two major hurdles. The first is to prepare and be successful in a round two bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund for up to £2 million of the project’s funding. The other is to prepare and be successful in a planning application to the District Council. To meet our deadlines both these bids have been produced in parallel with the design of the New Place site. This has meant that the project has evolved with a lot of team work where everyone understands how each discipline fits into the whole jigsaw.
We have also undertaken an enormous amount of consulting with the public, key organisations, businesses, heritage groups and others to ensure that the plans are the right ones, and will be met with approval in planning terms.
So, what are the plans for New Place? Briefly, the scheme consists of a new two story, fully-accessible exhibition centre slotted into the back of Nash’s House; major conservation works to Nash’s House and the Knot Garden and some very minor works to the Great Garden. The plans for New Place include a grand front door along Chapel Street to welcome visitors, made from bronze and English oak. The footprint of the gatehouse, service range, courtyard and home is defined on the floor with bronze lines. There is a garden and pieces of art work such as Shakespeare’s chair and The Tempest’s galleon. On the site of Shakespeare’s actual home we propose a circular space enclosed by taller planting.
At the centre of the circle is a deep pool and underneath the water a light will glow upwards. The sonnets and plays will be engraved into the floor around the pool and the pattern working through the whole garden is one of ripples spreading outwards from the pool, a place of special genius.
Clearly a simple and beautiful metaphor, which we hope will perfectly mark the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death and resulting legacy in 2016.