The last decade has seen Margate’s cultural landscape flourish with the dual success of Turner Contemporary and a resurgent Dreamland to book-end the seafront panorama. Successful regeneration by Thanet Council has also brought significant and tangible changes to the Old Town. One of the most significant outcomes delivered by the Council without fanfare or drama however, has been the Margate Flood & Coastal Protection Scheme – also known more fondly as Margate Steps. A scheme funded by the Environment Agency to the tune of £6million pounds and brought in on time and under budget …and somewhat under the radar. This example of coastal civil engineering encompassed not only the Steps, but the Harbour Arm and Sea Wall along Marine Drive. This elegant and functional concrete stepped revetment structure has also brought a much needed and highly activated public realm and pedestrian space to the Town.
Throughout its history, a major catalyst for change and development in Margate had been the destructive force of storms and storm surges. These pages are taken from the Contextual Research Document, which I delivered in collaboration with the project team.
I was commissioned as project artist on the scheme by Thanet District Council & the Environment Agency in December 2010. My role was to uncover and present interpretive & contextual information & develop concepts with which to influence the design process & inform the structure & detailing of this major sea defence works. The work has now been completed and the project officially opened in May 2013.
Being part of an integrated design team from an early point was critical in enabling the contextual work, via a contribution to the detailed DESIGN & ACCESS STATEMENT , to influence the physical form of the structure, within its constraints as a sea defence work.
The public realm and amenity space which the project afforded Margate’s sea front has been a tremendous addition to an enlivened and highly activated sea front promenade which has Turner Contemporary and the Harbour Arm at one end & Margate Station & Dreamland at the other.
These images are from a walk I made over the Easter weekend from Ramsgate to Broadstairs and back again. I do this walk over and over again. It is different each time. I always see the small things as the grammar that holds a walk together.
The images clearly show the scale and impact that the Coastal Protection Project has had on the local area. The additional public realm and and amenity space that the works have provided is shaping the way that the seafront engages with the Old Town and Harbour. Even at high tide, the Old Town is accessible from the beach, which had previously not been possible. The wonderful coastal setting which has become the backdrop for the regeneration of the Harbour Arm, Custom House, Turner Contemporary, Old Town, Margate Steps and now finally Dreamland coming on stream has really made Margate magnificent once again.
I recently saw some new aerial images of Margate Steps at low tide taken by the project contractors Breheny –
Breheny have very kindly allowed me to publish them on my blog. Notwithstanding its success as an example of coastal engineering within an urban setting, these images of the project really show to good effect the scale and impact of the project. As a public realm & additional amenity space which the step revetment provided for the town, the project was also successful as demonstrated by the awards it has won.
I was commissioned as the project Artist by MACH – Margate Art & Cultural Heritage, Thanet District Council & the Environment Agency. My role was to supply an interpretive & contextual backdrop developed with which to influence the design process & inform the structure, detailing & interpretation of this major sea defence works. The total budget for the project was £6m.
On Thursday 8th May 2014, at an event at the Walpole Bay Hotel in Cliftonville, the Margate Flood and Coast Protection Scheme, aka ‘Margate Steps’ was awarded a Town Pride Award 2014 by the Margate Civic Society.
This follows the 2013 award given to the project at the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) South East England Engineering Excellence Awards 2013. This award was particularly welcomed as it recognised the benefit of the project in enhancing the experience of its host community. The project team behind the scheme received the award from ICE Senior Vice President, Geoff French, at a ceremony which was held at Leeds Castle on Friday 7 June. The awards recognise the best civil engineering projects across South East England with the judges looking for projects that deliver a real benefit to society through the knowledge, skills and professional expertise of civil engineers.
The revetment steps are now almost a year old and appear to have been really taken to heart by both the community & visitors alike. As well as fulfilling a vital role as protection from the risk of flooding, the defences were designed as a stepped revetment which accommodates integrated seating and lighting to provide an incredible amenity and public realm from which to enjoy Margate’s famous coastal views and sunsets.