Tuesday 22 October 2013

"From the ground up...up...up..."; comments on recent press coverage.

The 'new' Farrells masterplan, is not a new masterplan.

The previous Aedas masterplan proposed 3,500 homes, three towers above 32 storeys, 2000+ parking spaces, shops, a hotel, some green space, and a nod to the history of the site.

There is not a single new concept in this masterplan, besides a gesture towards the ideas promoted by Deptford Is...

Masterplanning is a process of visualising, imagining and re-imagining. But this new-old plan is the same number of Lego bricks in the same size tin. 

© BBC London News, 19 October 2013

When Sir Terry Farrell was selected by Hutchison Whampoa to review the failed Aedas masterplan, Sir Terry, in the presence of Hutchison Whampoa’s UK director Edmond Ho, publicly promised the people of Deptford a new masterplan for the site of Henry VIII’s royal dockyard and John Evelyn’s Sayes Court Garden, now Convoy’s Wharf. They would start "from the ground up". What did he mean?

Farrell’s architects recently claimed on BBC London News (above) to have used the character and history of the site to inform their masterplan. But it must be remembered that the quantum of units at 3,500 apartments, the typology of high rise towers of up to 48 storeys rising out of 12 storey blocks with their enclosed private green spaces resting on the top of four storeys of car parking – plus blanket preservation in situ of the historic dockyard structures – were all features of the previous Aedas masterplan (2012) which was unanimously rejected by the local community, English Heritage, Council for British Archaeology, Naval Dockyard Society and Lewisham Planning and a number of London amenity societies.

The Aedas masterplan – the routes and the real green public spaces

Identical to the Aedas master plan, the Farrell’s masterplan again proposes the historic structures such as the GII listed Olympia Building and the Double Dry Dock remain as marooned stand-alone features amongst the Aedas typology of monolithic blocks. So what does this newly promised “from the ground up” Farrell’s masterplan deliver that the rejected Aedas masterplan did not?

The Farrells masterplan – routes and public spaces

Are the extant Tudor routes through the site expressed in the masterplan? Not yet, rather Farrells have opted to import a circulation feature of “one route back” from the river that has never been a feature of this enclosed self-contained site. What the Farrell’s monolithic gesture of “one route back” achieves is a cutting through of the extant Tudor routes, ignoring the historic perpendicular circulation to the river with pedestrian bridges crossing the potential open mouths of the dock, slips, basin and mast ponds – in favour of an imported notion. Rather than the circulation through the site being informed by the site’s own history and character, specific and characteristic to this internationally important historic site, Farrell’s have opted to impose an idea from elsewhere.

The expression of the historic dockyard structures in the Farrell’s masterplan is limited to an indication of a single slipway illustrated as a green space and the dry dock also illustrated as a green space. This decision to landscape these features does not reflect the historic maritime character of the site. Where, in the former dockyard basin for instance, there might be historic tall ships, a marina, a sailing centre, moored restaurant barges or a floating swimming pool, Farrell’s have proposed – exactly as Aedas did – that the basin is rendered as a dull hard landscaped 'town square feature' fronting the proposed Olympia building shopping centre, described by Sir Terry as the "heart" of the site. The question as to how a shopping centre purposefully reflects the history of London's most important maritime and shipbuilding centre remains unanswered.

When Farrell’s publicly claim that the archaeology and historic features have informed their designs to develop a masterplan from the ground up, it appears that in order to achieve three tower blocks of 48, 38 and 38 storeys, surrounded by monumental blocks of 12 storeys, the precise location for the massive extent of piling required to support this masterplan is determined by the ‘archaeology’. What is the effect of this masterplan on the archaeology? According to Museum of London reports, the effect of this masterplan on the archaeology is "severe". Preservation in situ means that the potential harm to the historic dockyard structures will go unmonitored and unnoticed.

Farrells masterplan overlaid on historic dockyard structures and Sayes Court Garden

Sir Terry Farrell talks about the ‘memory’ of the extant historic dockyard structures being ‘reflected’ in the masterplan. Why do we need memory to be reflected when the structures themselves exist and no-one yet knows whether these structures can be revealed because expert assessment has yet to take place? For example, studies need to be carried out to determine whether the yellow stock brick and hardwood slipways can be revealed in the masterplan. As heritage consultants, Alan Baxters Associates have stated the masonry and brick openings in the river wall, such as the masonry Dry Dock entrance, may be sustainable as a revealed structure.

If Farrell’s public promise has any value, we will see more than the currently proposed preservation in situ of the entire historic environment of the dockyard and Sayes Court Garden.

The World Monuments Fund listing

Statement from Dr Jonathan Foyle, Chief Executive of World Monuments Fund Britain:

“Every two years, the World Monuments Watch reminds us the world around us changes faster than ever before. Change is inevitable, but it needs to be carefully managed so that we carry the best of the past into the future, and minimise the destruction of our record as a species. So we invite everyone to join us in supporting the champions of special places that need a helping hand to stay useful and beautiful.

"In 1513 Henry VIII founded the Royal naval Dockyard at Deptford, and the King’s Yard became the foremost Royal dockyard of the Tudor period. Hundreds of warships and trading vessels were built here, including ships for exploration, science and empire. The Mary Rose was harboured in Deptford in 1517, and refitted there in 1523, and the dockyard remained a naval powerhouse for another 350 years. The site also includes John Evelyn’s seventeenth-century garden at Sayes Court, one of the most famous and revolutionary gardens of its time.

"The majority of the area has been concreted over in past decades, but recent excavations have revealed the dockyard’s extensive maritime heritage. Many large structures survive intact below (and in some cases above) ground level. However, the current low-level designation of the site remains unchanged despite this wealth of new archaeological data, and Deptford’s status as a heritage asset remains disproportionate with the survival of the fabric.

"2013 is Deptford’s 500th anniversary, and today the site awaits residential redevelopment. Yet Deptford’s most imminent threat comes from the failure of existing proposals to fully acknowledge and respect the heritage assets that the site has to offer. Incorporating the extensive archaeology and combining this with unique public spaces has the potential to strengthen Deptford’s local identity whilst securing this lost piece of the Thames jigsaw. It would also improve awareness of the little-known existence and overlooked history of the dockyard and gardens on a national stage."

Saturday 12 October 2013

Deptford Royal Dockyard and Sayes Court Garden listed on the 2014 World Monuments Watch

The Deptford Is... team are very pleased to issue the following Press Release this week:

The announcement in New York on 8th October by the World Monuments Fund of their 2014 Watch marks a positive turning of the tide for Henry VIII’s Royal Naval Dockyard and John Evelyn’s Sayes Court Garden in Deptford.

Both sites are under threat from Hong Kong based developer, Hutchison Whampoa, current owner of the majority of the land. HW has submitted plans for 3,500 new homes that will bury the historic landscape largely without trace. Both sites are of international historic significance. WMF Watch list status supports the Deptford Is campaign to build on rather than build over the rich history of the area.

Most people will know the name Deptford, many will know the stories of Sir Francis Drake, Sir Walter Raleigh, Captain James Cook, the Mary Rose, the Golden Hinde, Trinity House, John Evelyn, the Gut-Girls, Erasmus, Samuel Pepys, Czar Peter the Great, Grinling Gibbons, Margaret and Rachel Macmillan, but few will have seen the monumental naval engineering dockyard structures that exist above and below ground or John Evelyn’s garden because since WWII Deptford has been shamelessly stripped of its history.

The royal naval dockyard was the Cape Canaveral of its day, leading the technology of ship building in England. The site of the dockyard served the nation as a military base through five centuries to WWI and WWII. Sayes Court Garden was also a place of innovation, attracting visitors from all over Europe, heralded as the greatest garden of the age. Efforts to save Sayes Court in the 19th Century by Octavia Hill led directly to the formation of the National Trust, based upon the principles of access to open space in our cities.

Deptford is London’s forgotten royal dockyard and Sayes Court is London’s lost garden. Like a missing piece of the jigsaw puzzle in the evolution of London as a port city and England as a maritime power, Deptford is at last being recognised and with access to its heritage can lay claim to the most historic stretch of the London Thames. Hutchison Whampoa’s proposal for preservation in situ (buried beneath residential tower blocks) of both the dockyard and Sayes Court is a wholesale obliteration of the opportunity for access to this world-class heritage. WMF support is critical in helping to make what has remained invisible visible once more.

Today two key projects exist to connect Deptford’s history with the future. Both projects are locally generated and involve major national partners.

Sayes Court Garden envisages the reinterpretation of John Evelyn’s garden, together with an institute of urban horticulture. Sayes Court Garden has support from the National Trust and the Eden Project and has the potential to be both a world-class destination and a rich local resource.

Build the Lenox will provide training, tourism, business and foster local and national pride by constructing a 17th century wooden ship at the centre of a maritime enterprise zone. Build the Lenox already has the backing of London’s Mayor Boris Johnson and has as its patrons TV historian Dan Snow and local MP Dame Joan Ruddock.

The WMF watch-list status will assist the people of Deptford, the local decision makers at Lewisham Council, English Heritage and the GLA to enhance the future of the two sites by creative planning and truly start the master plan “from the ground up” as publicly promised by HW’s architect Sir Terry Farrell in the presence of Edmond Ho, HW’s UK director.

The announcement of WMF support is extremely important and exciting for the future of Deptford. The Dockyard and Sayes Court Garden are Deptford’s equivalent of The Mary Rose or Shakespeare’s Globe. Deptford has an unparalleled vivid history on the London Thames and the WMF watch-list status can help us celebrate a vibrant future. The historic landscape is the starting point. Once the site is formally protected, as all other royal naval dockyards are, the area including Sayes Court Garden will deliver visionary projects bringing jobs, tourism, business, pride in our community and an enhanced sense of place.

Other facts about Deptford Dockyard and Sayes Court Garden:

• Drake was knighted in the presence of Queen Elizabeth I in 1581 on board the Golden Hinde where the ship became a tourist attraction.
• Deptford has built royal ships and royal yachts since the 1400s and put out ships for naval battles including Armada and Trafalgar.
• The first Ark Royal (Ark Raleigh) was built at Deptford. Its master shipwrights were pre-eminent in the royal navy.
• John Evelyn was a commissioner for the building of the Royal Naval Hospital at Greenwich, he proposed an underground transport system for London and the planting of trees to scent and clear the London air.
• Czar Peter the Great of Russia learned shipbuilding at Deptford in 1698 in order to build the Russian navy.
• Captain James Cook hoisted the pennant on board the Endeavour in 1768 prior to his “discovery” of Australia. 

See the World Monument Fund's announcement on their website.

The Royal George at Deptford, showing the launch of the Cambridge by John Cleverley the Elder © NMM

Further comment from Deptford Is...

Just as there is to be no development over the Double Dry Dock, nor should there be development over the Basin, a contemporaneous structure with the dry dock, as well as being the very origin of the dockyard.

The Tudor Dry Dock at Deptford of 1517 is the ancient predecessor of its modern equivalent just as the Tudor Basin is also the very first of its kind in the country. Shipbuilding slipways are evidenced at Deptford as early as 1420 and the present slipways should not therefore be built over. The 17th and 18th century mast ponds complete the dockyard engineering structures, and until independent expert engineering assessment of the future viability of all the above mentioned structures has taken place no permissions should be given for preservation in situ and development over their sites.

Archaeological reports state that the impact of development on these structures of national importance is severe. To the primary dockyard infrastructure may be added the Navy Treasurers House, a former royal residence of the Duke of York, and the Officers Terrace, until the understanding of the evolution of this early palace front terrace is complete.

Deptford Is... also calls for the reinstatement of the pre-1913 Sayes Court Garden to link up with the site of Sayes Court Manor House.

Plan of Sayes Court House and Garden by John Evelyn, 1653 © British Library