Cambridge-based design practice MCW Architects has completed the transformation of a heritage barn and granary into an uplifting community center and home of local charity ACE Foundation. Purchased by the charity in 2009 on the outskirts of Cambridge, the Victorian farm was renovated in a two-part process, the second phase of which MCW Architects was commissioned to design and implement. In addition to refurbishing the existing structure and improving energy efficiency, the £1,500,000 second-phase transformation also included new build elements, such as the glazed hall that links the Stapleford Granary to the barn.

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As a champion of adult and continuing education both locally and internationally, the ACE Foundation wanted to create an inspiring place conducive to hosting all types of learning. Its vision was to transform the Victorian farm and granary into a sustainable working environment and accessible community amenity. In the first phase, the granary and surrounding outbuildings were transformed into a small performance space for 60 people, including multipurpose facilities for chamber music, lectures and exhibitions, as well as recording facilities, a seminar room and some office spaces.

band playing instruments in white room with wood ceiling beams

people standing on a deck and chatting

When MCW Architects was brought on for the second phase, the firm converted the existing barn into offices for the ACE Cultural Tours team and refurbished the ground floor of the granary — along with the cart lodge — into a creative space for fine and applied art. The glazed corridor connecting the existing structures is multipurpose and serves as a foyer, gathering space and long gallery. All areas are naturally ventilated without reliance on air conditioning. In addition to passive design components, the buildings save energy with an underfloor heating system, additional windows and skylights that let in greater daylight and energy-efficient lighting systems throughout.

Related: A Michigan farmhouse is reborn as a beautiful modern vacation retreat

brick hallway with wall art and sculptures

people sitting outside of a renovated barn

The architects said, “The redevelopment of this sensitive site was carried out in a way that retains the character of the existing fabric and spaces whilst being able to breathe new life into the place so that it can support and sustain the uses and needs of the Foundation into the future.”

+ MCW Architects

Photography by Jim Stephenson and ACE Foundation via MCW Architects