Design-led Architects based in Gravesend, Kent delivering highly workable contemporary and innovative design solutions to challenging briefs and tight budgets

How Not to Kill a Building




Kasan Goh of Clay Architecture will be giving a talk at Canterbury School of Architecture at 5.30pm on the 19th of January 2016:

This talk is something I've been kicking about for a while, and the title came from a conversation I had over coffee with Allan Atlee of CSA some time ago, where I was mouthing out about how much bloody work it took just to keep projects alive. We thought it'll be a great idea to base a talk around the seldom-talked about, less glamorous aspects of being an architect, and some of the challenges of small practice in the regions. About as far removed from Starchitecture as you can get. Raymond Quek invited me to test drive the talk at De Montford Leicester School of Architecture last November, where it generated a lively Q&A, now I'm looking forward to chatting to the students at CSA.

About Clays:
‘… the pattern for most architectural firms is to set up in London ( or another big city ), and compete in a hot soup of young practices, using every opportunity to create small photogenic projects to catapault them to the holy grail of public projects. Breaking the mould, Camilla Prizeman and Kasan Goh, a husband and wife team who met at the Architectural Association school in 1991, set out to create a different sort of practice when they moved away to Gravesend in Kent in 2000. Their unusual strategy has paid off and… they have created a practice steeped in its history and place in a way that is hard to achieve in the capital. Prizeman and Goh are more interested in the way that people will react to and behave in their buildings, than what the projects look like in magazines- though they do look extremely good. As Prizeman and Goh say: ‘There may be something to be learnt from concentrating on the design of normal and everyday things and places.’

 Vicky Richardson, Blueprint, 2008

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Blink

Where has the year gone? Blink and its October.     
       
  4 bits of news to report.

  
  Medway Archives

This month Clays won a mini-competition to convert the former Strood Library into a new Medway Archives and Local History Centre. Clay’s design proposals involve stripping back and interventions which are more in keeping with the original 1972 Colcutt & Hamp Architects design; windows blocked in to protect historic documents from light damage will be filled with illuminated billboards of selected images from materials found in the archive.

  

  Chatham & Clarendon Grammar School, Ramsgate 
Clay’s supporting information and detailed conservation condition surveys of the historic Grade II Listed Chatham House and early 20th Century Clarendon House were instrumental in helping the Academy secure £2.3m in Education Funding Agency money in February. This follows emergency masonry work carried out by Clays and master stonemason David Adamson in early 2014, when Clay director Camilla Prizeman spotted a dangerously weathered stone finial during a visit to the school.



Gravesend Borough Market

Clay’s scheme for regenerating Gravesend Borough Market’s indoor market hall and old fish hall was awarded £1.8m from the Big Lottery Grant Coastal Communities Fund in January. The fund invests in coastal towns to help them achieve their economic potential; the scheme brings natural light into the dark halls, and include a mixture of fixed and temporary stalls to improve the quality and variety of traders, artisans, crafters, food and vendors stalls in the historic market (which was first granted a charter in 1268). The development will help create 35 new jobs in the area and revitalise the town centre. Work is due to start towards the end of this year.



Find of old drawings

Following the success of Making Places, Changing People, local historian Christoph Bull contacted us in September: a cache of old drawings and documents were found in the loft of a garage building off Parrock Street where the George Clay Partnership had its offices.

Clay directors Kasan and Camilla, archivists from the Kent History Centre and the Architectural Association School of Architecture visited the site to sieve through, select and retrieve historic drawings and documents. Amongst the finds are drawings from the late 19th century and early 20th century attributed to Adolphus Rayner, master builder; and Rayner, Kidwell and Bridgland architects & surveyors; Bridgeland & Clay architects & surveyors; George E Clay Architect and the George Clay Partnership.

Finds included George Inis Clay’s student portfolio from the Architectural Association (1928 to 1932), drawings of pubs, shops and houses, as well as blueprints for a gun cotton press and documents relating to jobs for Curtis & Harvey Limited adding fuel to the theory that Clays had at least some involvement in the explosive factory at Cliffe ( circa 1910s to 1920).


  

  Images:

Artist’s impression of the proposed Medway Archive

Chatham House, Chatham & Clarendon Grammar School

Early sketch from Clay’s aspirations masterplan for Gravesend Borough Market

Sample drawing retrieved from the find. Date June 1912, by Bridgland and Clay



 

 

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History project exhibition 20th October - 1st November

The Blake Gallery: Memories of Gravesham architecture shared at exhibition



Memories of Gravesham buildings, seen through the eyes of local people, will be shared at an exhibition at The Blake Gallery in Gravesend Civic Centre from Monday the 20th of October to Sunday the 2nd of November.

The display, at The Blake Gallery in Gravesend, is the culmination of two-year heritage arts project Making Places, Changing People by award-winning Gravesend practice Clay Architecture Ltd in partnership with Design South East.

The project, which received £45,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund, invited members of the public to share stories, photographs, documents or drawings demonstrating the visual and social changes that have taken place in the area in the last 100 years in relation to architecture.

Eight audiovisual animations will be shown at the exhibition, bringing together pictures and information collected throughout the project as well as recordings of interviews with experts and residents. Display boards, produced by Clay Architecture, will accompany the films.

In The First House Built, Northfleet residents Jean and Oliver Madgewick recall moving into a newly built home in Coldharbour Road in the 1960s when the estate was surrounded by potato and cabbage fields.

The Church That Moved features a series of photographs and the voice of local author Peter Shearan describing how Christ Church was dismantled and moved from Parrock Street to its current spot in Old Road East over three years by the George Clay Partnership, a forerunner of Clay Architecture.

Kasan Goh took over Clay Architecture with his wife and fellow director Camilla Prizeman in 2000. He said: “The aim of the project was to explore 100 years of Gravesend history 'through the eyes' of the Clay practice, using archive photographs, documents, drawings, projects and oral accounts stretching back as far as records, archive material and memory could reach.

“Since launching the project, volunteers from Christ Church and civic group Urban Gravesham have been trained in oral history and archival research. They have worked really hard gathering information for the project, digitising the drawings and photographs and cataloguing the collection.”

The material gathered during the project has been donated to Gravesend Library and copies have been loaded onto a new website.

The project was first exhibited briefly for 3 days at Christ Church from March 29th to 31st 2014.

The Website also contains an electronic version of the exhibition, including the videos, an electronic archive of photographs, drawings and oral history interviews

Making Places, Changing People: The Exhibition will be at The Blake Gallery, Civic Centre, Gravesend, from Monday 20th October to Sunday 2nd November. Open daily, Monday to Saturdays 10am – 8pm, Sundays 10am – 2pm.

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We have moved to Great Lines Studios



We have moved!

At 6pm on Monday 22nd Chris Warden of Move2Clear turned up with his trusty crew and began loading up the vans ( we were still packing up 'til midnight ), at 2am Tuesday 23rd 200 boxes, tables, chairs, IT, shelves, odds and ends were unloaded into the former Air Training Cadet Core hut in Gillingham, now renamed the Great Lines Studios-- new home of Clay Architecture.

The studio is a former WWII RAF hut ( with bomb shelter ) built by the sappers-- a pre-cast concrete portal frame building which Kasan and Camilla bought from the MOD this year. The hut is a bit of a Tardis-- not much to look at from the outside-- acres of space on the inside-- space which we're in the process of customising for our very own use.

Steeped in history too: the hut sits on the edge of the Great Lines Park in Gillingham ( the profile of which now forms our redesigned letterhead ), part of the Brompton Lines heritage site-- Camilla's Grandfather was stationed nearby during the War, there are rumours that tunnels from Fort Amherst run right under us.

We're currently stationed in a site office in one of the rooms whilst work goes on in the rest of building. This morning Gransdens knocked out 3 of the 8 new windows to the drawing office, letting in the light. We will keep you updated on progress.

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RIBA South East Regional Awards 2014

On the 20th May, our project for the extension of the chapels at Medway Crematorium won an RIBA South East Award 2014 along with 11 other projects ( including our favourite, Ditchling Museum of Art + Craft by Adam Richards Architects ). Check out the judges’ response on
 
http://www.architecture.com/StirlingPrize/Awards2014/SouthEast/MedwayCrematorium.aspx

 

We’d like to thank everyone involved on the Medway Crematorium project, hats off to Medway for commissioning the project and putting their trust in us, hats off to Provian for their work on the building ( Rick Archer & Colin Baldry, D&B Manager and foreman respectively ), hats off to our consultants— not only did we manage an award against stiff and August competition ( Clays were the only Kent practice amongst mainly London practices ) , we also managed to stimulate a mini-rant and lively debate on design & build from the chair of judges, Mike Russum.

Mike was right in many respects, but he did miss one point, which is how well, in this instance, the team managed to work together to deliver the facility— as anyone working in this industry knows, it’s all about how you work within the constraints set for you, and what one does despite all the obstacles a project throws your way, that matters.

For an architect every finished project is a little ‘death’, all WE can see when we walk into a finished building is what could have been done better. It’s a bit of an occupational curse. As far as finished projects go, Medway Crematorium is less painful for us to walk into then other finished projects.

A big thank you to Quintin Lake for the fantastic photographs, which, I must say, looked great projected on the screen.



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History Project Exhibition Opening

Cabbage fields to Christ Church: Memories of Gravesham architecture shared at exhibition


Photo: Tollage Garage; Clay Architecture 

Memories of Gravesham buildings, seen through the eyes of local people, will be shared at an exhibition this month.

The display, at Christ Church in Gravesend, is the culmination of two-year heritage arts project Making Places, Changing People by Design South East (formerly Kent Architecture Centre) and award-winning Gravesend practice Clay Architecture Ltd. 

The project, which received £45,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund, invited members of the public to share stories, photographs, documents or drawings demonstrating the visual and social changes that have taken place in the area in the last 100 years in relation to architecture. 

Eight audiovisual animations will be shown at the exhibition, bringing together pictures and information collected throughout the project as well as recordings of interviews with experts and residents. Display boards, produced by Clay Architecture, will accompany the films. 

In The First House Built, Northfleet residents Jean and Oliver Madgewick recall moving into a newly built home in Coldharbour Road in the 1960s when the estate was surrounded by potato and cabbage fields.  

The Church That Moved features a series of photographs and the voice of local author Peter Shearan describing how Christ Church was dismantled and moved from Parrock Street to its current spot in Old Road East over three years by the George Clay Partnership, a forerunner of Clay Architecture. 

Kasan Goh took over Clay Architecture with his wife and fellow director Camilla Prizeman in 2000. He said: “The aim of the project was to explore 100 years of Gravesend history 'through the eyes' of the Clay practice, using archive photographs, documents, drawings, projects and oral accounts stretching back as far as records, archive material and memory could reach.

“Since launching the project, volunteers from Christ Church and civic group Urban Gravesham have been trained in oral history and archival research. They have worked really hard gathering information for the project, digitising the drawings and photographs and cataloguing the collection.”

The material gathered during the project has been donated to Gravesend Library and copies are being loaded onto a new Making Places, Changing People website.

 A second exhibition will be held at The Blake Gallery, Gravesend, from October 20 to November 2.

Making Places, Changing People: The Exhibition will be at Christ Church, Old Road East, Gravesend, from 10.30am to 3.30pm, Friday to Monday, March 28th to 31st.

See www.claymakingplaces.co.uk for more on Making Places, Changing People and for a web version of the exhibition in April.  

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Meway Crematorium Complete

Medway Crematorium Completed

Photo: Quintin Lake 

A crematorium is a building of two halves; each half deals with a different aspect of the way we deal with our recently departed, our dead. The half the public seldom sees (the half that the project team euphemistically refer to as ‘the back of house’) is essentially an industrial process— apart from the cremated remains, by-products of the cremation process are classed by DEFRA as trade effluent or waste. 

DEFRA’s introduction of the requirement for crematoriums to abate or filter the environmental pollutant mercury (from tooth fillings) from at least 50% of all cremations carried out was the initial driver for this project. The specialist equipment required to abate mercury is costly and the process of installing the equipment onto existing plant is complex and challenging; in seeking to meet DEFRA’s deadline and requirements Medway Council made a decision to upgrade and replace all existing cremators with fuel efficient plant to prolong the useful life of the crematorium. The council also decided that, if sufficient capital were raised, the ‘front of house’ should be extended as well. 


Photo: Quintin Lake 

Designed by Sir Dawber, Fox and Robinson, Medway Crematorium was completed in 1959 during the boom in crematorium building that followed the Cremation Act of 1952. Sir Edward Dawber was a respected and scholarly architect in the Cotswold vernacular tradition, president of the RIBA from1925 to 27, a recipient of the RIBA gold medal in 1928. Partner Christopher Robinson authored and presented a paper entitled ‘Economy in Crematorium Design’ to the Crematorium Society (based in nearby Maidstone) at their annual conference in 1977— and the experience shows. What impresses about the design of this crematorium is the elegance and efficiency of the symmetrical cross plan, with the porte-cochere, chapels and covered walkways laid out to ensure the smooth flow of visitor arrival, attendance at service, and departure through the building. The symmetrically mirrored functions between east and west chapels enable consecutive services to be alternated and managed with a minimum of fuss. Unlike many other crematoriums, this building can be viewed in the round; the back of house is not tucked away from sight.. 

Local demographic and cultural changes since the original building was completed have led to larger numbers of mourners attending cremation services and therefore a need for larger chapels (although the number of services have remained constant over the years). The chapels are dedicated, not consecrated; Medway Crematorium is a non-denominational facility. The ethnic population of North Kent has grown significantly since the ‘50s and there is a large Indian population in the area for whom funeral rites are closely bound with cremation (and for whom what happens at the back of house matters, culturally). 

The facility is much used, much loved. The brief was to keep the chapel extensions subservient to the original building and tucked away from sight, barely visible from the approach to the existing front elevation. 


Photo: Quintin Lake  


Image: Clay Architecture Ltd

This, and the location of mature trees and cremated remains on the site led to a decision to remove the outer flank walls and extend the side of each chapel. The tapered polygonal plan of the extensions are determined by the sight lines to the catafalque positioned in the apse or focal point of each chapel. But removing a wall and part of the roof down the entire length of each chapel breaks the chapels’ symmetry and leaves a lopsided plan. 

To ‘rebalance’ the asymmetrical plan a second axis or centre-line is introduced, radiating from the same focal point (apse) as the centre-line of the original chapel. A large steel beam replaces the removed wall of the chapel; a steel Vierendeel truss springs from this beam, forming the axis of the new extension. Glulam half-portal frames spring from the top and bottom cord on either side of the truss, forming the skeletal frame of the new extension. Due to the peculiarities of the tapered sight-line plan, the glulam frame on one side of the truss rises as one approaches the focal point of the chapel, while the glulam frame on the opposite side of the truss falls. Between the top and bottom cord of the central Virendeel truss north-facing clerestory windows are inserted to light the line of sight towards the apse.


Photo: Clay Architecture Ltd

Photo: Quintin Lake


Photo: Quintin Lake

The user client had concerns that the contemporary extension would be ‘too industrial’ looking— we had settled on a bronze-coloured standing-seam zinc cladding (VM Zinc pigmento rouge) to blend in with the arts and crafts brick-and-tile palette of the existing building; there were regrets about the loss of the mirrored box-diamond patterned leaded glass windows on the demolished walls, and concerns about the large picture windows framing the park— that visitors could look into the chapels and disturb or distract a private service. There was concern about the possibility of glare from early morning and late afternoon sun.


Photo: Quintin Lake

Partly inspired by 19th C marble window screens made in Agra (in the V&A), our response was to design a 150mm deep metal screen (not quite a brise soleil) using a scaled up version of the mirrored box-diamond pattern, set 300mm in front of the large gable-end windows. Side windows are sand-blasted with a similar (scaled down) pattern in negative.

     
Photos: Quintin Lake

 Getting the large, 2 tonne metal screens fabricated was not easy— a succession of steel fabricators backed out before Hellings Fabrications of Margate took on the job. Originally designed to be fabricated in aluminium, these were eventually completed in steel— it is not possible to butt-weld aluminium plates in the desired ‘6 leg star’ pattern without distortion. Each screen was designed to be assembled out of 6 separate panels— based on the maximum fit into a galvanising bath— and a secondary frame, coined the ferramata (based on the ferramata struts used to hold the leaded stained glass windows in St Pauls in place), introduced to bolt the 6 panels together. The delayed installation of the screens (compounded by having to refabricate a whole screen when one was run over by a truck in the galvanising yard) meant that the screens were installed out of the architect’s preferred sequence— we’d intended to install the screens before zinc-cladding was completed so that the screens (now bolted in front of the windows) could have been partially built into the head of the windows with a short zinc canopy to conceal the fixing brackets. 

Once the screens were finally installed, they had a huge impact on the quality of light within the chapels. 


Photo: Quintin Lake

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The Art of Feasibility

How to start up a school building project— the art of feasibility

Building works are costly to commission, but the consequences of poorly planned works are even costlier if they go wrong during or after construction.

Schools should seek expert advice in the planning of building works— a well-thought out feasibility study completed by an expert will highlight the risks and costs of planned building works, to enable the school make a decision on whether or not to proceed with the work, and, if the school does decide to proceed with the work, will provide the foundation for the justification for funding.

Project managers, surveyors and even builders may be able to carry out or contribute to a feasibility study, but in our opinion an architect (at senior, partner or director level) experienced in school projects will be best placed to provide the rounded knowledge that is required to carry out a thorough feasibility study at the planning stage. Beware of practices who assign feasibility studies to junior or less experienced staff to complete.

For example, we recently worked on a school re-glazing and re-cladding job on which an earlier feasibility study had been commissioned from a surveyor. Although, the surveyor had done a fair job in analysing the concrete failure and estimating the cost of the re-glazing and re-cladding works, they did not have sufficient skill or experience address the following issues:

1. The fact that the classrooms overheated due to solar gain in summer. There are software packages, Class Cool and Class Vent, which can be used to calculate the correct glass specification to reduce solar gain, and the correct opening window sizes to sufficiently ventilate a classroom. These requirements are not found in the Building Regulations Approved Document but in DFES’ Building Bulletin 101, which has the same legislative weight as the approved document. 

2. The fact that concrete failure was caused by approximately 1 km of cold bridging— interstitial condensation within the exposed building structure— and that the new cladding and glazing should be designed to remove or prevent future cold bridging in order to avoid a continuation or escalation of the problem. 

3. The fact that removal of failed concrete from a reinforced concrete frame building is noisy work and needs to be carefully programmed to reduce affecting normal school business (unless classrooms are decanted, at additional cost). 

4. The fact that air-conditioning cables running across the building elevation needed to be rerouted, and the air-conditioning units sited next to the windows and cladding needed to be decommissioned for the duration of the building works. The existing air conditioning units were old and were unlikely to restart after decommissioning and so needed to be replaced.

Unfortunately, the school had bid for, and obtained funding based on the recommendations of the earlier feasibility study. Because the cost and complexity of the work had been underestimated by the surveyor, we had to carry out a number of value engineering (cost cutting) exercises to enable the project to be completed despite the oversights. The school could have had a better result if they had gotten a better feasibility in the first place.

Do not be shy of seeking a second opinion or getting a reference for your architect / surveyor etc.

An experienced professional will advise the school on what additional consultants are required (structural engineer and mechanical and electrical services engineer for example) in order to plan the job properly.

It is important that necessary surveys are carried out at an early stage to gather as much relevant data as possible. See these as a necessary but preventative cost— surveys help to identify and highlight potential risks (and hidden costs) to the project. Your architect will advise you on the surveys required for the feasibility study.  

Feasibility studies and reports come in all shapes in sizes, but are only worth their weight if they achieve their objective. This varies from project to project, but typically a feasibility study should aim to achieve the following:

  • Clarify and test the clients brief. The brief may be a single project— such as a classroom, staff room extension or sixth form centre— or a group of projects or list of building defects that need addressing (leaky rooflight above classroom X, cracked concrete above the hall, overheating of classrooms in summer etc.). 

  • Identify and appraise different options for achieving the requirements of the brief in a way that will enable the school to decide which option is the most appropriate or feasible option to implement. This should include a cost estimate of the various options (typically estimated by a quantity surveyor or building estimator, then compiled and presented by an architect). 

  • Identify risks and other hidden or abnormal costs, and recommend how these risks may be avoided or reduced, and advise on the cost of these risks or the cost of avoiding these risks. An example of a common risk would be: asbestos removal. 

  • Draft a programme for building work and advise on the best way to procure a competitive price for completing the work. 

A feasibility study is NOT:

  • A design. It is the necessary groundwork at the early stages of a project which will help clarify the project brief. Repair and maintenance work may require very little, or no design input at all, but it may need the specialist knowledge of a designer (for example, conservation knowledge if working on a historic building more than 60 years old.)

 A good design:
  • Meets the criteria set out in a good feasibility study.  

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Medway Crematorium Steel Sun Screen

Brise Soleil Installation

On Saturday 2nd November, the Brise Soleils were finally installed at both newly extended chapels at Medway Crematorium.

Brise Soleil lifted by the loading Crane 

Installing the Brise Soleil onto its foundation 










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Multiple deliveries of breath

High Halstow Village Hall

    

High Halstow Village Hall: Before

When Clays first encountered High Halstow Village Hall, we were met with an exhausted 1960’s building which had fallen victim to years of vandal abuse and lack of maintenance funds. In spite of this, to the credit of the Village Hall committee, they had kept the hall running for the local community. The halls presence avoids the need for village residents to travel to neighbouring towns for much needed meeting spaces for youth and other community groups. 

Having planned a grand new build scheme to revive the hall, the committee were understandably demoralised to realise that, not only were funds insufficient to realise their scheme, but that it is very difficult to attract funding to the area at all. Despite the dilapidated state of the hall, its location is not deemed deprived enough to warrant significant investment. 

The hall needed; not just a new design, but direction to make the works a reality. 

At the time, we had just finished Parkwood Community Centre. The committee members here had a similar problem with a vision which could not attract sufficient funding. We worked intimately with them to flesh out an understanding of what they really needed, then proceeded to pursue this as economically as possible.  

Parkwood Community Centre

At High Halstow Village Hall, the Committee were relatively inexperienced at commissioning architectural work. We therefore worked closely with them to create a new brief and then conducted a feasibility study which appraised the adapted scheme against possible pots of funding. In order to deliver the scheme, we proposed to parcel it into 3 phases. 

The first phase would include essential works. The roof was at the end of its life, and the back wall had been kicked to bits and boarded with plywood. Phase 1 included a new roof and vertical extension of the first floor storage as well as a new Trespa clad rear wall. During the works, the main hall also received a make over. 


Phase 1 Works: new roof works, vertical extension and rear wall



Phase 1 Works: Main hall

The second phase of the works were finished in Autumn 2013 and included a new wall at the entrance, and re-configured the internal spaces to fit new WCs and a new Doctor’s Clinic.


    

    High Halstow Village Hall: Before Phase 2

   

High Halstow Village Hall: After Phase 2 - WC and Clinic Waiting Room/Green Room

High Halstow Village Hall: After Phase 2 - Front Elevation


The third phase will contain a new kitchen and stairs to the mezzanine storage area. 


Clays is currently working on a History Project documenting over 100 years of the George Clay Partnership (now Clay Architecture ltd.) on the built environment of North Kent towns www.claymakingplaces.org.uk. In our research, we were delighted to realise that the original village hall was built by the George Clay Partnership, as we stumbled across this archive photo of the hall in its glory days when completed in 1962. 

We are excited by the challenge to breathe new life into this old gem, even in intermittent phases; perhaps resuscitation is best done through multiple deliveries of breath. 


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