Downes' work on the roof of St George's Hall, Windsor Castle
Design work at Windsor Castle
On 20 November 1992, a major fire occurred at Windsor Castle, lasting for fifteen hours and causing widespread damage to the Upper Ward. The fire spread quickly and destroyed nine of the principal state rooms, and severely damaged over a hundred more. There was considerable debate over how to repair the castle. Some suggested that the damaged rooms should be restored to their original appearance, but others favoured repairing the castle so as to incorporate modern designs. The decision was taken to largely follow the pre-fire architecture with some changes to reflect modern tastes and cost, but fresh questions emerged over whether the restoration should be undertaken "authentic" or "equivalent" restoration standards. Modern methods were used at Windsor to reproduce the equivalent pre-fire appearance, partially due to the cost.
Parts of the State Apartments - the area broadly covering the current St George's Hall, the Lantern Lobby, the Octagonal Dining Room and the Private Chapel - had been completely destroyed in the 1992 fire and the architectural partnership of Siddell Gibson were selected to conduct the design. Giles Downes, a partner at the firm, was commissioned to produce a coordinated set of designs for the rooms. Downes style of design in the castle, sometimes called "Downesian Gothic", involves "the rather stripped, cool and systematic coherence of modernism sewn into a reinterpretation of the Gothic tradition". Downes himself argues that the style avoids "florid decoration", emphasising an organic, flowing Gothic structure.
Downes' new roof of the St George's Hall is the largest green-oak structure built since the Middle Ages, and is decorated brightly coloured shields celebrating the heraldic element of the Order of the Garter; the design attempts to create an illusion of additional height through the gothic woodwork along the ceiling. Commentators have noted that Downes' work does much to compensate for the originally flawed dimensions of the hall. The Lantern Lobby features flowing oak columns forming a vaulted ceiling, imitating an arum lily. The new Private Chapel is relatively small, only able to fit thirty worshippers, but combines architectural elements of the St George's Hall roof with the Lantern Lobby and the stepped arch structure of the Henry VIII chapel vaulting at Hampton Court. The result is an "extraordinary, continuous and closely moulded net of tracery", complementing the new stained glass windows commemorating the fire, designed by Joseph Nuttgen.
- Jones, Nigel R. (2005) Architecture of England, Scotland, and Wales. Westport, US: Greenwood Press. ISBN 978-0-313-31850-4.
- Nicolson, Adam. (1997) Restoration: The Rebuilding of Windsor Castle. London: Michael Joseph. ISBN 0-7181-4192-X.
- Robinson, John Martin. (2010) Windsor Castle: the Official Illustrated History. London: Royal Collection Publications. ISBN 978-1-902163-21-5.
- Robinson, p.143; Nicolson, p.30.
- Robinson, p.114.
- Robinson, p.145; Nicolson, p.71.
- Nicolson, p.78.
- Nicolson, pp78-9.
- Nicolson, p.212.
- Nicolson, p.212, 233.
- Giles Downes, quoted Nicolson, p.234.
- Nicolson, p.211, 214, 218.
- Jones, p.307.
- Nicolson, p.235.
- Nicolson, pp.244-6.
- Nicolson, p.246, 264.
- Sidell Gibson website, accessed 16 December 2010.