Image of outside of St. Mary's Convent building showing Wienerberger Marziale brick used
© Lorenzo Zandri

Case Study

St Mary's Convent

Discover how Marziale brick was used to create a harmonious blend of old and new at a historic Convent in Wantage, Oxfordshire.

St Mary’s Convent in Wantage, a 19th-century Grade II Listed Convent building, had struggled with underutilised space, a circulation structure that was less than easily understood, and the absence of a practically sized entrance area. The need to reorganise the site to accommodate diverse functions, from the Sister’s accommodation to the provision of conference facilities, and offices for the Oxfordshire Diocese Schools Trust, was becoming increasingly important. Plus, due to various building additions over the years, the entrance was difficult to identify and the different wings of the building were problematically disconnected. The project required a transformation that respected the historical context while creating a clear, inviting entrance and functional spaces for a range of different uses.  

Hall McKnight Architects undertook the task by creating two new structures - an entrance space and a stair and lift tower thoughtfully woven into the existing fabric. Wienerberger’s Marziale brick was selected to use throughout both new additions. The architects wanted to use a brick that would harmonise with the existing Cotswold sandstone while providing a distinct yet complementary texture and tone. The Marziale brick offered an enduring and timeless appearance with buff tones and distressed features, presenting a weathered, traditional aesthetic.

Working closely with Wienerberger, the architects conducted thorough tests on-site to understand how the brick would interact with lime mortar, ensuring the perfect blend of texture and colour. This thorough approach resulted in a brickwork application that was both visually engaging and functional. The intention was to create a space that felt closely related to the original Convent buildings thereby offering a sense of continuity and permanence.

Inside building looking out into the convent grounds
© Lorenzo Zandri

"The project required a transformation that respected the historical context

while creating a clear, inviting entrance and functional spaces for a range of different uses."

The new entrance space, characterised by precast concrete structures and vaults, is now a focal point that guides visitors seamlessly into the Convent's various spaces. The stair and lift tower create an accessible connection to other areas of the building. Both internally and externally, the brickwork defines the new additions, offering a textured and nuanced transition from the original sandstone while maintaining a sense of continuity.

Visitors and the Sisters, who live at the Convent, find the brickwork visually engaging, thanks to the familiar texture, colour and character of the Marziale brick. Due to the use of the flush application of lime mortar, the individual bricks appear subtly within the walls’ continuous surfaces, creating a natural, soft appearance.

Alastair Hall, Hall McKnight Architects, said: “Brick selection is a critical decision that is fundamental in defining the character of a project. The Wienerberger Marziale brick played an important role in redefining St Mary’s Convent, offering a texture and quality that supported our endeavours to engage with the existing listed buildings whilst also offering something new into the Convent’s continuing history. The softly varied texture and colours of the brickwork walls humanises the spaces; contributing to a comfortable, calming atmosphere.

“It was essential for us to create an environment that felt as though it extended the atmosphere of the existing Convent - creating a sense of continuity and familiarity whilst also introducing new spaces and materials that facilitate a sense of openness and welcome. We hope that the resulting additions carry a sense of permanence and longevity that befits their historic setting.

“We worked with Wienerberger as we have used their products in some of our most significant projects – we therefore have a trust and confidence in the materials and the technical support that is needed to deliver a project. Establishing that sense of trust with both the materials and the experts behind them is key to making considered and well-executed buildings.”

The use of Wienerberger Marziale brick at St Mary’s Convent not only addressed functional needs but also respected and honoured the historical context, creating a harmonious blend of old and new. The project showcases how a carefully chosen brick can elevate a space, ensuring it feels connected, inviting and timeless.

Project Summary

  • Location: St Mary's Convent, Wantage
  • Architect: Hall McKnight Architects
  • Photographer: Lorenzo Zandri

Products Used

Internal View of exposed brick wall of St Mary's Convent in Wantage
© Lorenzo Zandri

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