Two new schemes that aim to bring economic and social regeneration to West Somerset have been unveiled by Onion Collective CIC, the team working on community-led regeneration in Watchet.
The architectural designs have been created by architect, lecturer and broadcaster Piers Taylor from Invisible Studio, presenting a vision of renewed industry and activity for the East Quay, and Louise Crossman Architects who have designed an extension to the historic Boat Museum. Both schemes will be presented by the architects at an open meeting on Thursday 20 November, 7.30pm at the Pheonix Centre.
The East Quay scheme sits alongside the current dry dock area operated by Watchet Harbour Marina, and seeks to complement current marina activities.
The scheme has three distinct elements. A ‘Work Foundry’ comprises communal makerspace, studios and co-working space housing year-round projects of skills sharing and apprenticeships. This space also incorporates a café/restaurant, public courtyards and walkways, as well as high-quality marina facilities. An expanded Contains Art building and gallery located in the centre of the scheme will provide low-cost, flexible workspace for artists and craftspeople to make and sell their work. The third element is an extraordinary and iconic ‘walkway to the sky’ containing bespoke accommodation pods, and offering exceptional places to stay. This Vantage Point would act as a beacon, attracting visitors from far and wide to climb to the top and experience unsurpassed views of the town’s natural beauty.
The architecture for this project specifically references Watchet’s geology and character. The Work Foundry design was inspired by the rock formations of the blue lias strata on Watchet’s shoreline, the Contains Art building echoes traditional wharfside design, its lightweight structure allows for the low-cost and flexible space artists need, and the Vantage Point reflects the lighthouse and steep rise of the nearby cliffs.
Architect Piers Taylor says: “This is an amazing and exciting opportunity for Watchet to use architecture and design to empower an entire community. I’m thrilled that I can be part of this, and it’s a joy to be working with Onion Collective on one of the most exciting community led coastal regeneration projects in the United Kingdom, which hopefully will act as a catalyst for continuing growth and change for Watchet. The buildings include bold propositions, but similarly belong to the architecture and character of Watchet. They speak of its geology, geography and rich cultural history. “
Onion Collective are also working on new architectural designs for an extension to Watchet’s historic Boat Museum which are being created by Louise Crossman Architects. The extension will house a new visitor centre and help to tell the story of Watchet’s rich heritage. Acting to complement the current TIC facilities on the Esplanade it will help to direct visitors to the TIC as well as hightlight the important role transport has played in Watchet’s History. It will act as a welcome to the town, and help to improve the flow of visitors to the top of Swain Street.
Originally designed by Brunel, the Boat Museum started life as a goods shed, built in 1862 as a terminus for the Bristol and Exeter Railway. Louise will also draw out plans to restore the original building, improving the structure of original walls and the facilities inside (providing plumbing for example), whilst aiming to retain the authentic quality of the current experience. The design will also provide a more aesthetic welcome to visitors as they arrive by car, coach or rail.
The proposed schemes have evolved from months of community consultation, and respond directly to the expressed needs of local people. These schemes are only two of four proposed projects for the town; for more information go to the Onion Collective website at www.onioncollective.com.
As well as the public meeting on Thursday 20 November the concept designs will also be open for viewing at Onion Collective’s offices 41b Swain Street on Friday 21 November 10am-4pm and Saturday 22 November 10am-1pm. Stay in touch with how the project progresses on the Onion Collective website www.onioncollective.co.uk by following them on Facebook (/OnionCollective) or via Twitter (@onioncollective) or sign up to their newsletter at email@example.com