We’ve been working with The Onion Collective CIC for a few months on the East Quay regeneration in Watchet, Somerset.
This is a workspace development called The Foundry, comprised of small modular, flexible workshops, a communal makerspace and studios providing visitors with the chance to see and visit makers at work. In addition. there is a new gallery and studio spaces for ‘Contains Art’ and a series of self catering apartments contained in a vantage point and ‘lookout’ that provides spectacular views over the Quantocks, the Marina, out to sea and back to the town.
The lookout is a structure that enjoys a certain seaside whimsy, and also makes reference to the series of tall coastal structures with exposed steps and walkways that exist up and down the coast.
The scheme is highly contextual and makes reference to the the fascinating geological makeup of this part of the triassic/jurassic coast. It also celebrates the quirky and informal nature of the town.
Watchet is an informal, working coastal town, and the danger will be to overdevelop – or, rather, to over sanitise it – with a scheme that is too precise and clinical. Consequently, this proposal celebrates the informal and the adhoc but effective platemaking that has evolved over time here. At the heart of the proposal is a series of small, and medium sized interlinked public spaces, that connect into other parts of the town.
We particularly enjoy Mrs Osborn Hann’s description of Watchet. She came to Watchet in the Edwardian period as she had been commissioned to write a book on Somerset by A&C Black in conjunction with the artists Heaton Cooper and Walter Tyndale and she wrote the following:
‘Watchet, that little, quaint and higgledy-piggledy town which is more like a foreign quay than any place I know of. Here the houses seem to have dropped willy-nilly from the skies, falling north, south, east or west with careless unconcern’.