‘Medway Council successfully secured £700,000 from the government’s Local Growth Fund through the South East Local Enterprise Partnership (SELEP) to contribute towards the £1.4m upgrade, with Network Rail match-funding the windfall through its National Station Improvement Programme’. Medway Council
This was great news to see this project being promoted on Linkedin this week by Medway Council. Following the near completion of public realm works and embedded public art along Railway Street and Military Road, including New Cut, St John’s Steps and Military Square, Chatham Railway Station is now about to undergo its long awaited regeneration too, at the head of our works as part of the Chatham Placemaking Project.
I made one of the first posts about Chatham Station on this blog back in September 2015 in the very early stages of our research and contextual work on the project. Click on this link for more information.
Many draft proposals and developments of conceptual and contextually based responses to the site were developed and considered. The final detailed designs for public art interventions were presented to Medway Council and their partners Network Rail in January 2018. This work dovetails with works already carried out and continues themes and material choices and finishes established at the outset of the scheme.
The following images highlight the proposals we put forward at the beginning of 2018.
The guiding principles for the Chatham Placemaking Project, as outlined in the proposals developed by LDA Design, Francis Knight and myself as Lead Artist can be summed up in the following brief statements –
Getting Around – To create an easier journey for commuters and visitors from the Station to the Town Centre and Waterfront, with more shared space for pedestrians and cyclists.
Identity – Chatham is a great destination. Use the collective experience of the local community to tell this story. Use the Maritime and Military History of Chatham to tell this story. Chatham’s Historic Dockyard starts as you step off the train! How is this made obvious?
Destination – What is the experience of visitors to Chatham who arrive by train? This visitor experience is critical, so too is the daily experience of commuters and residents. We hope to deliver bold, attractive and contemporary changes which welcomes and enhances this journey.
At peak times – and throughout the day, pedestrians have to navigate a series of crossing points and narrow pavements with poor way finding to reach the Station. This is also the same experience coming from the Station. An adjacent bus hub stop and heavy traffic flow, make this a demanding environment for pedestrians and cyclists alike. A much more sympathetic environment is being proposed within this regeneration programme.
The Public Consultation events in regard to the Chatham Placemaking Project were held in Chatham from 15th January to the 5th February 2016.
If you click on this link – Chatham Placemaking Project– you can see the information boards which were presented for comment. Additionally, there was a form to complete, which asked some pertinent questions about the project. An online option provided opportunity to complete the survey at home in your own time. All the information collected is now subject to review by the Council’s Regeneration Team.
At these events the general public were invited to comment on the plans developed by the wider project team, including LDA Design, Medway Council, Arts Consultants Francis Knight and me ! I attended one of these days at the Pentagon Shopping Centre. What was so interesting about this process, was that people would stop and look at the information boards. Some would comment favourably, others would raise questions about wider issues in the town. Once engaged however, many people – particularly elderly residents – would tell stories.
These are a few images taken from the Creative Scope work I am doing. These are my artworks / draft plans, created to promote the creative concept.
The Lead Artist proposes that these historic, physical and social influences will be experienced in the pedestrian journey from the Railway Station, via Railway Street and Military Road to Riverside. It is proposed that this concept approach may manifest itself as an evolving linear narrative, drawn out from within the pavements and pedestrian areas associated with the route. Referencing the nearby Chatham Lines, this new Town Line could demonstrate a series of distinct, yet inter-related events, thresholds and experiences along its course. As interpretive interventions, they will evoke a narrative of resonant references to Chatham itself, becoming a part of the fabric of the street. Where the Chatham Lines were built as defensive structures, this new line will be resolutely ‘enabling’.
The Historic Dockyard is inextricably tied to the social and industrial history of Chatham. It is a rich source of inspiration. Architectural forms, both robust and functional continue to influence the creative approach; some structures, such as the Slipway Sheds presenting striking abstract patterns and geometries. Vertical forests of timbers supporting vast and expansive roofs with rectangular glazing apertures, twisted askew by perspective. The Dry Docks are faced in massive blocks of close fitting granite. These materials are shaped by function, yet are hand crafted and bespoke features, imbued with a legacy of local and honed skills, surely a fitting inspiration for a contemporary streetscape here in Chatham.
Dickens writes about an enduring military presence on the streets of Chatham.
“They walked about the streets in rows or bodies, carrying their heads in exactly the same way, and doing exactly the same thing with their limbs”. “Men were only noticeable by scores, by hundreds, by thousands, rank and file, companies and regiments, detachments, vessels full for exportation”.
These closely observed characteristics, played out on the streets of Chatham until very recently, suggest that an echo of these patterns of movement and symmetric formations, displays and manoeuvres are still extant in the pavements, streets and roads of the town. Perhaps this evocative memory could be recalled in new paving finishes and interventions in the streetscene.
This creative interpretation not only brings a site-responsive and contemporary narrative to the project, but also dovetails with and adds to a strategic and deliberate approach to inherent wayfinding and placemaking, assisting and strengthening the pedestrian route and the local and visitor experience.
This concept applies to the entire Placemaking Masterplan, setting a blueprint for a programme of temporary and permanent commissions to roll out in a phased approach over the development period.