St Mary’s Island


Overview and Master Plan
A master planning and housing competition was set to regenerate the former naval dockyards of St Mary’s Island in Chatham. Our proposal for grafting a new settlement onto this northern edge of Chatham was to discover and incorporate links to the extraordinary history of the site, make connections to previous adjacent phases of new housing but also finds a density to support its own civic activity.

To achieve this we proposed a density of around seventy dwellings per hectare. This is a responsible figure which should be able to support effective public transport and essential shops and services within walking distances.

We proposed the development could become “car-free” over time within a staged sustainability masterplan but cited this was not a realistic aspiration for the foreseeable future. Parking was incorporated into the proposals with a mixture of sensitively placed on-street parking in conjunction with courtyard parking. Some courtyards are enclosed within back gardens and are accessed through gated entrances. There is a limited use of undercroft parking beneath higher density blocks of flats.

We have opted to wrap the site to the exposed western and northern boundaries with a perimeter block. This shelters a series of interconnected courtyards and tight connecting spaces. Through this highly varied sequence of spaces we have woven a pedestrian friendly route from one end of the scheme to other and off which all the housing, shops and services are arranged. Activity from flexible live / work units and strategically placed cafes, bars and essential shops and services along the route will keep the spaces vibrant and usefully overlooked.

Cars would have limited access onto the central route and their movement will be highly controlled with carefully detailed landscaping. We opted to run the connecting road from the roundabout on the east side of the site to the Bascule Bridge around the periphery. The detailing of this road could accentuate a seafront style promenade.

We suggested that a significant green space is located to the north of the site which will be developed with the local residents to provide not only a recreational environment but also a learning one as well. It could include a bio-swale working in conjunction with a methane digester and a combined heat and power unit. This arrangement will close an energy loop such that waste effluent from the development can be converted to heat and power and irrigation for an orchard and urban farm. The latter two items could be run in connection with the local school and will form a practical teaching tool with produce to sell locally.

Activity around the old dry dock could be created by the formation of a boating club and a market selling farmers produce and even fresh fish off-loaded from the nearby jetty. Combined with specialty shops, cafes, bars, live work activity and the historic attraction of the dockyard and Rochester to the south, Saint Mary’s Island and the region will become increasingly popular to visit and an extremely attractive place to live.

Housing Innovation
The central concept we are pursuing for our ‘evolved’ house type is a stacked pair of dwellings which effectively uses the footptrint twice. A significant economic argument strengthens the case for creating a roof garden for the upper dwelling’s use.

Car ownership will be catered for, however parking will be dealt with in a manner that ensures it does not predominate. The dwellings will be planned in effect as semi-detached units. The gaps between will be utilised to provide vertical access to the upper dwellings and valuable storage for bicycles, refuse for recycling, and meter cupboards. It will also act as a direct route between between front door and car. The ‘gap’ will be controlled with a lockable gate.

The structure will be designed to depend increasingly on the Earths’ ‘ambient’ energies. BBM have been working on a concept called ‘Sky Harvester’. This technology will create heat and electrical energy, it will harness rain water and allow daylighting through to a garden below. It is currently uneconomic for broadscale application, but by allowing for their phasing-in over time these buildings will be suited to an energy precious future. The building process itself must reduce energy and material waste.

To facilitate the growth of web shopping, the units should be designed with a lockable delivery hatch. We have been working on a concept called ‘the portal’ which is an ambiently cooled space similar to a traditional pantry. It would work in connection with a smart card or ‘blue tooth’ technology and operated by certified delivery agents.

The apartments themselves will be designed to be long life, loose fit, taking on board current policies around Lifetime Homes, ensuring an environment that adapts to the changing needs of its tenants.

Master Planning