A new vision for Watchet; architectural concept designs revealed.



Two new schemes that aim to bring economic and social regeneration to West Somerset  have been unveiled at a public meeting.   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 were presented by the architects at an open meeting on Thursday 20th November.  PDFs of both schemes can be found on the home page by clicking here.


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 3 distinct elements: A ‘Work Foundry’ comprising of 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. Next an expanded Contains Art building and gallery located in the centre of the scheme will provide low cost, but flexible workspace for artists and craftspeople to make and sell their work. Finally an extraordinary and iconic ‘walkway to the sky’ containing bespoke accommodation pods, and offering exceptional places to stay. This Vantage Point acts 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.


Onion Collective Director Naomi Griffith says:

“These two schemes represent a unique opportunity for Watchet. We are lucky enough to not have to accept the raw deal of being in a rural town with few resources; together, as a community we can change that and transform the town’s fortunes, creating opportunities that will benefit everyone. We are really excited to be able to show everyone these extraordinary concept designs, which represent the ideas and hopes that were expressed to us during the consultation, earlier in the year. We look forward to seeing everyone at the open meeting on November 20th. “


The proposed schemes have evolved from months of community consultation, and respond directly to the expressed needs of local people. These schemes are only 2 of 4 proposed projects for the town, for more information click here


 As well as the public meeting on Thursday 20th November the concept designs will also be open for viewing at our offices at  41b Swain Street on Friday 21st November 10-4pm and Saturday 22nd November 10am – 1pm. 


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