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Chislet Colliery Carbon Rowing Academy, Hersden, Kent.

Part 2 Project 2013
Mark Humphreys
University of Kent, UK
The Major Design Project anticipates the consequences of a choice facing a particular part of East Kent’s lowland, and the authorities tasked with its protection – one of economic and environmental strategies that might ultimately lead to the re-establishment of the Wantsum Channel, a former stretch of tidal estuary that once separated Kent from the Isle of Thanet.

Imagined in 2053, one hundred years after the Great North Sea Flood of 1953, the collapse of the sea defence and intervening climate-change-related sea level rises have caused the Great Stour River, a tributary of the Wantsum, to breach its banks and merge with adjacent fishing ponds, creating a series of connected tidal lakes at Hersden, Kent.

Hersden is a declining working-class community established in 1918 on a ridge around the head of Chislet Colliery some 1500 metres below the surface, which formerly capitalized from the rich source of coal. Today the only remaining physical evidence of the colliery is a shallow heap of coal spoil integrating itself back into the landscape in the Stour Valley.

The project draws the industrial past into the future by imagining a new combined Carbon Fibre Production Plant and Rowing Club. Coal is burnt in-situ in the abandoned mine’s cavernous galleries in a process of gasification which brings it to the surface through a series of bore-holes, run through the building’s pile foundations; to be liquefied, solidified and then extruded into carbon fibre. Fibres are then woven into sheets before being moulded and baked to produce racing ‘Eights’. In this academy the technicians then become the athletes.

The design composes its distinct industrial and leisure elements about a formalist reference to the geological fault below ground, engaging visitors and artisan-rowers in divergent experiences of transitioning from the prevailing ground level, constituted by the spoil heap, down into the ground, before emerging at the surface level of the surrounding lake.

The project engages with current themes of post-industrial-to-leisure regional transition whilst referencing socialist traditions of shared work and team sport, and simultaneously engaging in the most direct way with the contemporary ‘Carbon Agenda’.

Mark Humphreys


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