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

Cranbrook Opening Ceremony

This year Cranbook School are celebrating their fifth centenary as a grammar school set up to provide schooling for local children in 1518.

As part of the celebrations, Princess Anne visited the school on Tuesday the 12th June, to open the newly completed sixth form centre.

Clay directors Kasan Goh and Camilla Prizeman attended the ceremony, as did project architect Sarah Dias ( with baby Bowen ), quantity surveyor Stuart Harrison of Liberty QS, and Bob Coleman of Coleman and James. Congratulations to the team on a job well done. It is great to see how popular the new sixth form centre is with kids and parents.


Great Yarmouth Marketplace

We don't usually take part in open design competitions, but January was a slow month, and we thought it would be fun to try our hand at the competition for the revitalisation of Great Yarmouth Marketplace.
The site.

The brief asked for two seperate market areas, a six-day covered market and two-day open market (doubling as a car park for the rest of the week), and a flexible events area.    

To keep within the tight budget constraints, we opted for re-purposed shipping containers for the fixed stalls, and a tensile fabric canopy for the covered market, moving the covered market to the centre of the site opened up a flexible events area on the town centre end of the square.
Shipping containers,

Covered market.

View from the south.

At street level

From beneath the canopy.


Kingsnorth Power Station Chimney Demolition

On Thursday 22nd March we were invited by Coleman & James, the contractor we worked with on Cranbrook 6th Form Centre, to watch the Kingsnorth Power Station chimney demolition from outside their offices, just a mile or so north of the site.

Besides a lovely breakfast, we also got some great footage of the demolition from two slightly different angles.

The chimney, which stood over 198 metres tall, was part of the Kingsnorth Power Station first commissioned in 1973. It operated for nearly 40 years before being shut down in December 2012, after reaching an operation-hours cap laid down by the government. At its peak, it provided 1100 jobs and could produce up to 1320MW of electricity.

Prior to demolition, the tower was the 2nd tallest building in Kent after the TV transmitter in Dover. Luckily, as the last surviving power station chimney on the Medway, onlookers could be reasonably certain they had the right one this time.

Speaking of Cranbrook, we’ve also recently had final pictures uploaded to the gallery for Cranbrook (and Gravesend Borough Market). You can check them out here and here.


New Sixth Form Centre for Cranbrook School

Our conversion of a former ‘60s gym hall into a new sixth form centre for Cranbrook School has completed in time for the new 2017/2018 academic year. Here are some pictures of the hall before works started, and near completion.

The old gym before works started.

The works include installing an acoustically isolated mezzanine study area over an open plan social space on the ground floor. The spaces are naturally ventilated, and the mezzanine has been set back to create a double-height atrium to let in natural light from the south facing windows. All glass has been treated to reduce solar heat gain, and the building opens out onto a new seated stoop area overlooking the quadrangle lawn.

The new acoustically sealed study area.

The set back mezzanine floor.

Sheeps wool has been used the insulate the cold copper roof and improve the acoustics within the study space, floating acoustic and lighting panels ( nicknamed Weetabix in the office ) are used above the ground floor social spaces to improve sound legibility.

The downstairs, open plan social area.

The "Weetabix" lighting panels.


A Happy Client

Rob Dennis ( Head of Property & Capital Projects ) holding the awards.

The first ever Medway Design and Regeneration Awards was held on Friday the 16th June to celebrate the past 10 years of new development and regeneration in Medway.

Clay director Camilla Prizeman attended the evening with long standing clients from Medway Council, Rob Dennis ( Head of Property & Capital Projects ), Anthony Wallner ( Capital Programme Manager ) and Dean Parker ( Project Manager ). We didn’t expect to win anything against the competition on show.

By the end of the evening the team had picked up the award for best public building- community for Medway Park ( extension and refurbishment of former Black Lion Leisure Centre ), and the award for best community building- education for Walderslade Primary School, and Camilla had given, in her own words, the ‘worst and most unprepared acceptance speech ever’.

We don’t often blow our own trumpet, but the 2 regeneration awards are vindication for years of worry and stress, working against the odds as a small regional practice in a difficult chosen field— the regeneration of North Kent— 17 years of hard graft.

Medway Park during the 2010 Modern Pentathlon World Cup, and Dean Parker ( Project Manager ) with the award for Best Public Builing - Community.

Medway Park won’t win any beauty parades but as a community project it delivered what the community needed, a centre of sporting excellence completed within budget, and completed in time to host the 2010 Modern Pentathlon World Cup, and in time to serve as a training centre for Olympic and Paralympic teams in 2012, and, more importantly, serve the local community and increase the Centre’s turnover more than 3-fold, ensuring its continued financial viability.

Walderslade Primary School, winner of Best Community Building - Education.

Walderslade Primary School did win a Kent Design Award in 2012, but this retrospective award does partly make up for the fact that the RIBA shortlisting judge sent to look at one of our most mature design projects at the time, did not even step inside the building when he wrote it off.


Gravesend Borough Market - Videos

Some videos of the market from Gravesham Borough Council:

Gravesend Market refurbishment from Cinemaworx on Vimeo.

Opening day video from the Gravesham Borough Council YouTube channel.



Gravesend Borough Market

Chartered in 1268, Gravesend Borough Market began as an open market with a few permanent buildings. The current market hall, designed by local architect E.J.Bennett, was completed in 1897, but had begun to fall into disuse due to distance from the main High Street and aging interior. Clays worked closely with Gravesham Borough Council to develop an aspirational master plan for the market and to make a successful £1.8m bid to the coastal communities fund.

December 2016 saw the reopening of the market, the first phase in the revitalisation project to renovate both the main market building and surrounding area. The revamped interior now hosts 21 permanent stalls, with room for up to 30 temporary stalls. The conservation effort also included a new roof and roof lights to restore natural lighting and ventilation to the building as well as modern public facilities and new seating areas. The scheme includes a cafe and food court for 6 pop-up food stalls, which will open once the council have secured tenants.

The market enjoys a renewed status as a shopping destination within the town centre, and provides new opportunities for jobs and start-up businesses. It will also host a variety of festivals and events throughout the year.

For opening times, information on events and stalls currently at the market, you can check out their Facebook page.

The new roof, restoring the natural light which had previously been removed.

Before refurbishment - an aisle in the old market.

A glimpse of the new food court.


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



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).



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




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.