Stage 2 involved further exploration and refinement of ideas in response to feedback on the Stage 1 proposals. The revised proposals were subject to further technical review and public exhibition, prior to the short-listed teams' presentation of their design ideas to the Judging Panel at final interview.
The goal of the design is to repair Whitehaven's urban fabric, recovering and rearranging the existing features and peculiarity of the site in a modern architecture. The scheme seeks to create a focal point to link the Georgian town grid to the harbour, with tall narrow blocks of residential accommodation arranged along Millennium Promenade. Grouping these blocks into pairs enables visual permeability to be opened up to the Strand Street office accommodation, as well as two orthogonal physical links between Strand Street and the Millennium Promenade. Different materials approaches are proposed for the harbour-side residential apartments (plaster, stone, concrete) and the office accommodation (glass mirror façade) to Strand Street. An 8 storey residential tower on the corner of Duke Street and Millennium Promenade would replace the Bath House building, to provide a point of accent within the scheme and a new focus in the vista in the manner of Lowther's planned town. Elements from the Bath House would be reincorporated within a longitudinal street running between the harbour block and the Strand Street offices. A sandstone arch would be created at the Duke Street end of this new street from the Bath House entrance/cupola, with the bas-relief elements incorporated into seating and sandstone flags to the new public squares. This would provide an element of delight and resonate with the discovered spaces found elsewhere in the town behind Georgian terraces.
Inspiration for the design is derived from the local context - the sea wall, the verticality of the Georgian gabled streetscape, and horizontality of the terraced hills and coal seams which triggered Whitehaven's industrial growth in the 19th Century. These drivers are developed via a 'push-pull' concept to create an architectural language in keeping with the scale of the town. Key moves involve the restoration of the Bath House and its extrusion to form a new 'sea wall plinth' along the harbour edge. A series of compositional games are employed to reduce the visual impact of the scheme, such as articulating the façade and stepping the three- and four-storey residential accommodation back from the promenade. The latter enables outdoor terraced areas to be provided for the apartments at first floor level, with all apartments in the scheme having sea views and generous balcony space. The fractured architectural forms are designed to mediate between the six-storeys of Pears House to the north and traditional harbour buildings to the south, with the scheme massed to follow the different conditions on each side of the development site. Four storeys of commercial office space are placed on Strand Street, with a glass-clad base and fragmented 'sharks tooth' gable roofscape offering a contemporary complement to the seaside architecture and Georgian vernacular of the town. The office accommodation (occupying the entire ground floor of the development) is divided by a narrow 'ginnel' linking Strand Street to Millennium Promenade, to provide a dramatic visual and acoustic point of arrival at the harbour's edge. The apartments are accessed via cranked, longitudinal decks running between the Strand Street office block and harbour apartment block. The decks abut against a series of light wells allowing daylight penetration into the apartment's rear bedrooms and down into Barcelona-style courtyards at ground floor office level.
The scheme responds to Whitehaven's rich history, including the Georgian township with its gardens, and the playful, evocative elements of the Victorian Bath House building. The proposals seek to provide a sensitively-scaled, 21st development, with an abstraction of the town's undulating roof-scape to capture the rhythm of the Georgian terraces. The scheme moderates in scale at either end of the harbour frontage and adjacent to the John Paul Jones public house. The site's dimensions lead to a solution in which two blocks of predominantly (1st floor and above) residential apartments to Millennium Promenade are separated from the Strand Street office accommodation by a dynamic mixed-use courtyard space. The courtyard would be accessed by a wide central passageway through the ground floor offices facing the harbour, linking through to two similarly generous passageways punched through the office accommodation to Strand Street. The Bath House building would be restored to provide an entrance to the Duke Street office accommodation and a 1st floor harbour viewing terrace for residents and office workers. At 1st floor level and above, rear deck access would be provided to the apartments via a walkway running along the length of the Strand Street office block's 'internal' courtyard elevation, with each pair of flats served by its own bridge link. Intervening void space and the use of perforated metal for the over-sailing walkways/bridges would enable daylight penetration to be maintained to the courtyard.
The 'Wharf Houses' are designed to provide a sensitive response to the challenge of inserting a relatively large building on the harbour frontage that would be in keeping with Whitehaven's scale and character. The harbour-side of the development seeks its design cues from the town's occasional four-storey plus stone-built wharf house buildings, to respond to the rhythm of the Georgian street pattern, and scale of the 'bookends' provided by the former Bath House building and the black gable-ended candle maker's house. The scheme is designed to reflect Georgian proportions and be in keeping with its harbour-side setting, to provide an attractive vista from the sea lock gates, with its playful roofline of varying heights allowing glimpses of the hills behind. The new buildings are carefully positioned to connect to the existing town fabric, preserving the Bath House and opening up a new pedestrian route to re-link Millennium Promenade to Strand Street. Four-and-half distinct blocks of residential accommodation are planned - the tallest blocks (7 storeys) are located in the centre of the harbour elevation, moderating down to 4 storeys at the 'bookends' of the development. Penthouses and three-bed apartments with double-height living spaces are located on the top floors to maximise use of roof pitches. Pairs of 2-bed flats would be arranged to the remaining residential floors of each block, with a single flat on each floor of the half-block 'mirror' to the gable-ended black candle maker's house. The ground floor to the predominantly residential blocks would house double aspect office accommodation extending across the entire site depth. A residential courtyard is proposed at first floor level, which would run along the entire length of the development, separating the residential blocks from the remaining 3 storeys of office accommodation occupying the Strand Street elevation. The office accommodation is designed to be immediately legible as such (with a deliberately different expression to the harbour-side elevation) and respond to Strand Street.