Rothschild Foundation Archives,
Waddesdon Estate, UK

We worked closely with the architects to reveal key areas of the building and landscape.
Rothschild Foundation
Stephen Marshall Architects
Speirs Major
Project Team
Mark Major

The building, which won an RIBA Award, is situated on the crest of a hill on the Waddesdon Estate in England and is home to the Rothschild charity’s offices and archives. Built on the site of a former dairy farm, the architects have created a series of elegant, low-level buildings around two courtyard gardens. The design of the Archive is closely connected to the name of the site, Windmill Hill. As one of the few elevated vantage points in the area, the Hill offers unrivalled views of the surrounding countryside. The buildings are arranged to bring those views into the building and courtyard. 

Inside the main archive building, an oak gridshell roof structure creates a vast reading room overlooking one of the courtyards. To preserve the integrity of the roof design, we designed custom downlights to fit the geometric wooden grid.”

The timber grid shell is softly uplit in warm white light from concealed LED sources mounted above the book stacks, while the bookshelves are illuminated from neatly concealed slots in the timber soffit.

A key demand was for the spaces to be flexible. Selectable light scenes allow the spaces to be modulated for various purposes – for reading, conferences and after-dinner events.

Outdoors, light is used sparingly – with low-level lighting emanating from cracks and fissures in the landscape to guide visitors through the dark while preserving the splendid natural views.