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Thames Barge Restoration Centre and Graveney Boat Museum

Part 2 Project 2012
Louisa Clifford
University of Kent, UK
Faversham is located at the end of a tidal creek that flows in from the Swale, the town grew due to the trade bought by the creek, which exported the fruits of Kent to London via the distinctive Thames Barges. Over the last 100 years due to the increase in the use of alternative transport, Barge trade has declined, and as a result the creek is slowly silting up. Enthusiast owned Thames Barges still come here to be restored but even this is threatened by residential developments, and the unique history of Faversham is being lost.

At the heart of The Restoration Centre a Museum which houses the remains of a locally found Saxon Ship hull, The Graveney Boat, which was exhumed from marshes having laid there for a century. By creating something from the old, the centre balances the desire of the community to protect its heritage whilst pushing these into a productive future for both the town and the Thames barge through the restoration trade.

Similarly the design of the centre came about by a series of studies into working parts of the Thames Barge which were photographed, abstracted, and then made spatial at varying scales. These were then manipulated into forms responding to the site, and creating a strong connection between the preservation and restoration aspects of the building. The Graveney Boat is suspended above a Dry Dock, the visitor moves between spaces across a series of bridges which look upon these aspects. Emphasising the importance of both to the town, how they are creating a new future for their history.

As the design evolved, working parts of the Thames Barge were reintegrated into the technological structure of the centre, creating subtle nautical references, for example a staircase is suspended by a scaled up version of a windlass, which tightens the rigging on a Thames Barge. The necessary humidity to preserve the Graveney boat is achieved in an appropriately low-tech and passive way by promoting evaporation from reflecting pools below the suspended boat, then trapping this moisture behind a vapour barrier presented as if a theatrical curtain.

Louisa Clifford

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