Neil Choudhury Architects seeks consent for new buildings and conversion

Neil Choudhury Architects has submitted plans to turn disused farm outbuildings in the East Sussex countryside into a toy museum and puppet theatre.

The scheme will rehabilitate and extend the existing buildings while also inserting two new subservient barns of the same typology and orientation.

Choudhury’s practice was appointed by the Children’s Arts and Education Foundation whose founder, John Bright, an Oscar-winning costume designer and costumier, has spent 50 years collecting puppets, dolls’ houses, miniature theatres, porcelain, children’s props and farm toys.

When the project, in a secluded valley in the High Weald AONB near Hastings, completes in a year’s time they will go on display for the first time.

It will also include a specialist puppet theatre, workshop and teaching space to pass on traditional toy-making skills. It will be one of only a handful of toy museums and puppet theatres worldwide and the only purpose-built example in the UK.

8. New Barn Gallery View

Source: Neil Choudhury Architects

New Barn - Gallery View

Choudhury said he wanted the 350sq m scheme, with a construction value of £650,000, to be an exemplary re-use of farm buildings and enhancement of local character.

He said the main challenge was to create a contemporary arts facility while using the vernacular of the High Weald.

“The key concern of the design is to maintain and reinforce the character of the farmyard,” he said.

Only building materials found in the farmyard and commonly found in Wealden farms will be used and all construction above slab level will be dry, with applied finishes minimised to reduce the carbon footprint as well as to speed the construction process.

Choudhury said: “The existing buildings, made of sandstone, soft red brick, oak, plain tiles, are all converted with a contemporary and minimal detail twist.

“All the features of the existing buildings are retained in order to enhance the experience of being in farm buildings.

“The barn doors, troughs, shutters as well as the brick paving are therefore all retained and celebrated in the design.

“Quarry floor tiles and new oak are added to the matrix. The main barn is re-clad in vertical timber boarding with typically agricultural sinusoidal-profile steel roofing.

“Glazed doors are inserted behind barn doors, while glazing and walkways are screened with close-centred vertical timber.”