Ben Foulkes wins RIBA Bronze Medal for Seeding Swanscombe Marshes, an ecological riposte to plans to develop a huge theme park in north Kent
Seeding Swanscombe Marshes: A Regenerative and Resistant Courthouse
Bartlett School of Architecture (UCL)
Tutors: Chee-Kit Lai, Douglas Miller
Ben Foulkes’ interest in landscapes, especially those with some element of contention regarding authority and agency, drove his President’s Medal-winning project for an environmentally regenerative and resistant courthouse.
His chosen site on Swanscombe Marshes in north Kent is the subject of plans for a huge new theme park, The London Resort. Foulkes envisaged a ‘courthouse’ that would assist the campaign to save the peninsula site by actively enriching the habitat through its regenerative architecture, and in doing so provide a more compelling argument against the development.
‘The courthouse was almost an allegorical idea, which I proposed would in some way correlate with ecological justice,’ he says.
He envisages three distinct stages of occupancy for the building. First, its foundations are laid to form a platform for protestors against the theme park.
Channels are excavated to draw water from the Thames into the surrounding marshes to aid regeneration. Displaced soil and clay are used to create cob cornerstones for the building’s construction.
Then, as the timber-structured enclosure takes shape, the courthouse serves as a forum for wider ecological activity and debate beyond the immediate site. During this phase of human habitation, the building gradually begins to ‘seed’ itself into the landscape and start regenerating it. In doing so, it becomes intrinsic to the marshes and too ecologically valuable to remove. The building envelope is designed to be deliberately compromised, questioning ideas of comfort. Birds are encouraged to nest in the thatched roof, while timber lattice walls provide a habitat for invertebrates and plant life, and nutrients are returned to the soil.
Finally, rather than being compelled to support human habitation, the building ‘dismantles itself’ over time as it biodegrades. The floor will flood to create inter-tidal and estuarine habitats as sea levels rise, eventually degrading the walls. During this process, the courthouse’s legacy will increase by continuing to cultivate new habitats and supporting further ecological regeneration of the surrounding landscape it has saved.
Reclaiming the Ruin
University of Cambridge
Tutors: Rod Heyes, Prisca Thielmann
The Workers’ Enclave
London Metropolitan University
Tutors: Andrew Budd, Jillian Jones, Kieran Wardle
University of Nottingham
Tutors: Elena Balzarini, Bob Braun, Ros Diamond
SERJEANT AWARD FOR EXCELLENCE IN DRAWING AT PART I
Cathedral of Trade
London South Bank University
Tutors: Olivier Jauniaux, Antonios Lalos, Angela Vanezi
AWARD FOR SUSTAINABLE DESIGN AT PART I
The Last Straw: A Case for Reuse. Ratho Community Centre
Edinburgh School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture
Tutors: Moa Carlsson, Simone Ferracina
BRONZE MEDAL JUDGES
Chair: Tracy Meller
Partner at Rogers Stirk Harbour & Partners; honorary professor of architecture at the University of Nottingham
Co-founding partner of Saraben Studio; subject head (postgraduate) architecture at the Leicester School of Architecture, De Montfort University
Principal architect at Grimshaw
Co-founder of DRDH Architects
Founding partner at Neri & Hu, China
Mayor’s Design Advocate at Greater London Authority, and founder/partner at Architecture Doing Place