This project aims to introduce you to the relationship between private and public spaces as well as allow you to explore and cross boundaries between land and water. Plymouth Sound has adapted to changing times throughout history, from cargoes and shipping needs to warships and lately leisure purposes. We would like you to propose a brief (narrative) for the use of your boatyard situated at the end of Strand Street.

Project Brief
Considering Plymouth’s rich aquatic history, it seemed only natural to pursue a design concept based around traditional ship building and craftmanship. Levying this thought, I visited a local ship-building yard in the docklands of Bristol.


Moulding Form

These particular boats are elegant and refined, beautiful in their simplicity; still crafted by hand using techniques mastered by the shipbuilders of old. I was particularly impressed with the construction of the ribs on the smaller vessel, which appeared to be bent using steam. The craftsmen later explained to me that the wooden beams were laid over a pressure jet of steam and slowly bent into shape by hand.

Steam Bending Wood

This process served as the perfect narrative backdrop for the project. A tactile conjuring of form that stood in complete contrast to today’s high-turnover/high-profit driven markets.

Steam-bending reflected an individual, bespoke method of design (as exemplified in the below examples) that was congruent with my plans for a hands-on craft-centre/functioning ship-yard.


Precedent: Ontario Art Gallery


Structure: Ontario Art Gallery
Architect: Frank Gehry
Location: Toronto, Canada
Constructed: November, 2008
Budget: $276 million

Frank Gehry’s renovation of the AGO art gallery in Ontario makes for an interesting precedent. Circulation is zoned down one side of the building, enveloped in a lattice work of supporting beams and timber-framed windows that dapple light pleasantly along the entire breadth of the corridor. The curved columns and suspended beams merely hint at a nautical aesthetic whilst remaining up-to-date and contemporary.

It is the perfect advertisement for timber as a successful construction material. Highlighted, in part, by a particularly extravagant architectural flourish: a curvaceous, plywood staircase that extends gracefully into the central lobby. Decidedly sculptural and Aalto-esque, it can almost be classed as a piece of art in itself.


Refining the Design / Integrating the Brief


Forming the Outer Shell

Following on from both precedent and narrative, a selection of self-supporting glulam arches were chosen for the construction of the outer-shell. As with an up-turned boat, placement of the ribs tapered inwards at both bow and stern, thus improving the shear force of the structure.

Enclosed inside would be a dry-dock, timber storage, tool space, craft benches and museum stands/info points. By zoning both aspects of the brief together, visitors would be able to interact more closely with the local craftsmen. Being able to look on and learn from the ship builders whilst engrossed in their own smaller-scale educational craft-work would only increase the educational value of the design.


Precedent: Weald and Downland Museum


Structure: Weald and Downland Museum
Architect: Edward Cullinan, Buro Happold
Location: West Sussex, England
Constructed: November, 2002
Budget: £1.6 million

The Weald and Downland museum proved to be the main inspiration for my design. The timber structure is elegant both inside and out, an architectural marvel and an equally impressive piece of engineering.

Using a super-strong, environmentally sound adhesive, 50m timber lathes were glued together to form the supporting structure for the inner-grid shell. Whilst computer modelling was used to calculate the dimensions for the smaller timber sections, resulting in an impressive, but highly complicated timber-clad grid shell structure (the first of it’s kind in Britain).


Green Credentials

Long glued timber sections (glulam) will be used to achieve the massive spans required for the outer-shell of the structure (similar to the Weald and Downland museum). As excavations need to be made anyway for both dry-dock and slip way, a ground-source heat pump could be integrated seamlessly into the foundations. Similarly, PV panels would sit perfectly on the south-facing cafe extension if installed during construction.


Final Drawings

1 x Aerial Plan
1 x General Arrangement Plan
1 x Elevation
1 x Cross Section
1 x Inhabited Cross Section
3 x Perspectives (1 Interior, 2 Exterior)


This project was a culmination of a year-long practical application of materiality and form. I believe the “up-turned boat” approach to the brief is both a natural and elegant solution to a new social hub in an area that is in dire need of redevelopment.

On a personal level, I learnt more about myself and the nature of the “design process” in this 6-week project than in the whole of the first and second years combined, (due to a complete and hurried redesign of the whole project before hand-in).





Date & Time

September 10, 2012