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Royal Engineers Museum in Chatham, Kent

Part 1 Project 2011
Alastair King
University of Kent Canterbury UK
Narrative The narrative for the design for the museum of the Royal Engineers is rooted in my childhood experiences in Kent, discovering World War Two pillboxes in the countryside. The museum is conceived as if it was an existing fort built by the Royal Engineers to protect Chatham, which has become disused and now has become a museum. The experience of discovering the museum in a forgotten part of Chatham is like my childhood experiences of discovery. For the visitor the fort-museum is an exploration of Chatham’s past; hidden within the historic fabric, it has always been there, in contrast to its immediate neighbours who are interlopers. The second part of my narrative is articulated in the design of the library building, which is separate from the fort-museum. The library is not only for the Royal Engineers’ collection but is also for the local university and the public. It is seen as a symbol for the future of Chatham as the university grows and Chatham becomes part of the city of Medway. This “modern” building is in direct contrast to the monolithic fort-museum. To give these buildings an historical context, the site is landscaped to represent the topography of the Medway estuary, which has been scaled down to fit the site. This is based on the Ordnance Survey map of the Medway estuary, the Ordnance Survey (OS) invented by William Roy of the Royal Engineers.

Summary I have sought in my design of the Royal Engineer’s museum to give the visitor, through the design of the fort-museum and the landscape, a mixed sense of wonder at its discovery, and trepidation at its harshness, through the exploration of the museum’s small corridors and sparsely lit galleries. I was influenced by the work of the New Brutalists, through their tactile and sometimes ad hoc architecture, the bricolage appearance of Corbusier’s work, the manifestations of Lebbeus Wood’s ideas, and most of all, the military architecture around Kent, which is surprisingly eclectic in nature.

Alastair King

Tutor(s)

2011
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