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Gloucester Siltworks

Part 1 Project 2010
Peter Spall
University of the West of England | UK
This mixed-use building, located in the Greater Blackfriars district of Gloucester, was designed to fulfill two principal aims: to reconnect the city with the River Severn, re-establishing the river as a dynamic part of Gloucester’s history and physical form; and to provide an education centre with an emphasis on the creative industries.

The concept, arrived at through the careful analysis of Gloucester’s history and context, involved abandoning ‘landmark’ architecture and reinstating the historic urban grain to re-establish the city-river link. This includes providing an exterior exhibition space which is designed to act as a physical record of the rhythms of the river’s large tidal range. This active engagement with the Severn highlights the presence of the river, and its role in the city’s past, present and future. By admitting floodwaters, the space is alternately appropriated by river and inhabitant; the river is welcomed and its effect on this artificial creek is recorded in the marks left by the water’s daily and seasonal fluctuations.

The ephemeral nature of this void is reinterpreted throughout the interior spaces, by exploring the reflectivity of surfaces and the manner in which building elements can be dematerialised. This non-static building is designed to operate as a social hub to encourage creative industries to establish themselves in Gloucester, sharing knowledge and inspiration, working across disciplines to refine and redefine working methodologies and ethos. The specification includes spaces for studios, events and exhibitions, a cafe/restaurant and administrative office, as well as a greenhouse and chicken pen - providing food for the local shop and café.

Peter Spall

The Genesis

The group was asked to look for holes to fill within the centre of Gloucester. Peter chose the River Severn’s edge, the genesis of the place, to explore and repair the context of the city. In the end, he dug a new hole and placed his building around it, and in between existing vegetation.

Away from the gentrified Gloucester docks and near the point where the original Roman quayside was built, Peter’s found an unloved bit of bank-side.

He began by placing the default ‘foyer’ brief onto his site. This led him to a ‘courtyard’ building diagram. He soon, however, understood the site was too public for the foyer element and found a more appropriate mix-use programme. With a clearer understanding of programme he dug his courtyard down and into the River Severn. With this his project was duly founded and then deftly assembled.

The Building

The scheme works at many levels. Tectonically and fundamentally it is a square of building with a ‘sump’ at its core. This at once reconnects the user to the city’s watery beginnings and the surrounding landscape, bridging that floodplain with the subtle mound of Gloucester. It is also a very competent sequence of three-dimensional spaces seamlessly facilitating the mix-use programme. As a piece of structure it is finely crafted.


Most remarkable, however, is the investigation and ultimate delivery of the phenomenological. It is an ephemeral quality that lifts this project to the world of really great architecture. Simple models were produced, the play of light photographed, analysed and the models reworked until Peter found an architecture dematerialized by the light itself.

The eloquent images of users amidst these dazzling interiors belies the determined effort invested to find an architecture beyond the ordinary.


• Page Hits: 10129         • Entry Date: 13 July 2010         • Last Update: 02 September 2010