Through the Clandon Park International Design Competition, the National Trust was searching for a world-class multidisciplinary design team to restore and reimagine Clandon Park, the Trust’s Grade I listed, 18th-century Palladian house, near Guildford in the south-east of England, which suffered a major fire two years ago.

The Trust was looking for a team led by an architect and demonstrating expertise in design, conservation, structural engineering, mechanical and electrical engineering, interpretation and landscape design. 

The charity aims to bring the house – widely considered to be a masterwork – back to life through new uses.

Created in the 1720s by the Venetian-born architect Giacomo Leoni, an authority on Andrea Palladio, and built by Italian, Swiss and English craftsmen, the new Clandon swept away an extended Jacobean hunting lodge, and signalled the arrival of a new style in architecture. The house captured the moment when the Baroque was making way for Palladianism: the most astonishing set-piece interiors – including its celebrated Marble Hall, with its glistening stone features and allegorical figures extending from the ceiling – were concealed within its austere red brick form.

The fire in April 2015, thought to have been caused by a manufacturing fault in an electrical board, left only a small portion of the house unscathed. However, the house’s brick superstructure, the Speakers’ Parlour, and architectural features in its celebrated Marble Hall survived. Six hundred artefacts were rescued on the night of the fire and others, removed from the debris, await conservation.

The Trust envisages a sensitive and thoughtful restoration of some of the principal state rooms on the ground floor along with the introduction of new gallery spaces for imaginative programming and expanded visitor facilities on the upper levels. The brief to teams who reached the second – design – stage of the competition asked that the two elements confidently relate to each other and create a building that reads as one, and which is integrated within its picturesque setting.

The charity developed its vision for the project over the two years since the fire by taking an informed, open and inclusive approach, commissioning detailed research, surveys and studies, and also listening to statutory bodies, amenity societies, neighbours, members, community groups and local stakeholders. The trauma of the fire, and the sense of loss felt by the Trust, has led to a determination to make the house and gardens better known, to introduce it to new audiences, and to raise its visitor profile both regionally and nationally. Clandon is strategically placed in the south-east, ten minutes by train from Guildford, the county town of Surrey, and 45 minutes from London. The high profile project has a construction value of £30m.

The deadline for the competition’s first stage – an open call for expressions of interest – was Friday 21 April 2017. The six teams shortlisted for the second stage of the process received further briefing from the Trust and had until mid-August to produce their concept designs, which are available to view in an online gallery.

The competition jury met in September 2017 to interview the shortlist and unanimously selected Allies and Morrison as the winner of the competition.