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DHBT Awards - Commendation - The Swiss Tea Rooms, Belper River Gardens

DHBT Architecture Awards 2023

Contemporary building in an historic setting

Commendation: The Swiss Tea Rooms, Belper River Gardens

Architect: PHD Architects

Belper Tearooms sits in Belper River Gardens with the view to the River Derwent. It’s located within the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site, adjacent to Strutt’s historic North Mill.

George Herbert Strutt appointed designers Hunter and Woodhouse to construct the existing Swiss Tea Rooms in 1905. The design was in a “swiss style”, but with Arts and Crafts overtones, and was opened for business in April 1906.

The original construction was a timber frame building with an overhanging heather thatch roof over veranda seating. However, within the first season the tearooms were too small to accommodate the visitor numbers and the roof leaked, so an extension was built in the form of the veranda. A new roof was built and covered with tiles. The tearooms reopened in April 1907.

Since 1981 the Tearooms have been closed and the building had fallen into disrepair.

The redevelopment project began in mid-September 2019 with the demolition of the former dilapidated building and a replacement Swiss tea rooms opened during Easter 2022.

The new building has been designed to be a sympathetic but contemporary take on the original and carries over certain features, such as the large hipped roof and veranda.

The design shows original building character with modern interpretation using glulam beams and large expanses of glazing to maximise the views of the River Derwent.

Due to Belper River Gardens being in a flood prone zone, carefully considered flood resilient construction materials and strategies were used.

The close proximity and historic relationship with the adjacent Strutt’s Mill have been used as an architectural precedent. The interior features reference the processes and products of the mill, which are represented in the principal feature behind the counter.

Judges were impressed with how the design was able to be contemporary whilst also clearly referencing the previous design; a truly delightful Derbyshire treasure!

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