Command of the Oceans
Chatham Historic Dockyard, Kent

Sitting astride the wall to a buried Pickling Pond that was infilled in the 1750s, and inserted into the narrow gap between the Grade II* listed Wheelwrights' Shop and the Grade I listed Mast House and Mould Loft, the Dockyard's new entrance building completes a range that was started over 250 years ago. The addition of a new gallery allows visitors the chance to view the Ship's Timbers of HMS Namur which were recently discovered beneath the floor of the Wheelwrights' Shop.

The structure of the new building is on show, adding to the Dockyard's rich heritage of visible and varying construction types. Below the flood level, board-marked concrete walls and exposed slab soffits provide a robust and stable environment for the preservation of the Ship's Timbers, and a tactile surface for the visitor. Above, over an open plan ground floor, a prominent, steeply pitched roof of Cross-Laminated Timber panels is supported by timber scissor trusses that bear on slender timber and concrete columns. Openings into the listed buildings on both sides were positioned to minimise the impact on original fabric, with the difference in floor levels between the existing buildings being resolved by ramps in the new building.

To the north of the new building, the infilled South Mast Pond was re-levelled and re-surfaced to significantly improve the Dockyard's car parking and access facilities. A porous paving grid system was used to manage surface water run-off while maintaining the shape and feel of the old Mast Pond, with the Broad Walk being reinstated around the edge of the pond. The intersection of Brunel's Canal and the edge of the South Mast Pond was exposed and presented in the external landscape using gabion retaining walls and a pedestrian bridge to show visitors what lies beneath their feet.

A new road was constructed to link the southern part of the Dockyard to the main entrance located in the north. Due to our limited knowledge of the historical build up across the site we had to limit the amount of excavation for this particular road, and so the build up was designed to be as shallow as possible. This approach benefited the Dockyard as the historic cobbles and old railway lines that once extended across the entire site were uncovered and reinstated along the southern edge of the North Mast Pond.

Project Information

Client

Chatham Historic Dockyard Trust

Architect

Baynes and Mitchell Architects

Value

£5m

Awards

Stirling Prize Shortlist 2017
RIBA Award 2017
RIBA South East Building of the Year Award 2017
RIBA South East Award 2017
RIBA South East Conservation Award 2017
Medway Design and Regeneration Award Restoration Conservation 2017
Wood Award, Highly Commended, Commercial and Leisure 2017
Kent Design and Development Awards, Conservation winner 2016

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