Commercial Units & Holiday Letting, Woodbridge

The Overview

Our client purchased the boatyard with the ambition to secure the long-term future of the boatyard and the boat building traditions in Woodbridge. This new building gives the business an element of diversity to help fund long-term stability and future site improvements. The Belvedere contains office spaces on the ground floor for market rent, and a holiday apartment at first and second floor levels. This location is a happy accident, a place that has grown organically leaving a small hamlet with a townscape of great character. There are buildings and spaces which are ‘under- designed’ alongside new modern interventions. The topography gives a great sense of arrival and discovery when crossing the railway line and across to the riverfront. Because of its linear nature, the area reveals itself as a series of ‘cameos’ as you travel through it.

The area has a busy, atmospheric, yet often drab character, dominated by the river. It is an invigorating, exciting and, at times, even magical place to be. It provides an assault on all the senses – sights, sounds, textures and even smells help define it. Its character changes with the seasons and the time of day, and always strongly dictated by the weather. The area is a unique mixture that has, on the whole, grown organically over time. But, despite this fragmentation, everything is dominated by the river, and there is a strong and distinctive sense of place as a result. At Robertson’s Boatyard there is a micro-level of incident, including minor buildings and their uses, walls, surface finishes and artefacts whose qualities give this site its uniqueness and special setting.

The Challenge

Inserting a building within a live working environment, on a site of special interest and located by the River Deben brought about many unique challenges in terms of appropriateness- the need to find an aesthetic which reflects the sites working heritage and complemented the established residential community, and the need to not over-manicure the development in terms of cladding and surfacing materials to maintain the unique setting and sense of place.

The Solution

The design of the building takes the basic form / aesthetic of a boathouse with viewing decks, supported off piloti’s. The spacing of the piloti’s gives the building a sense of lightness and rhythm. The ground floor is infilled with glass to maintain a sense of transparency, to reflect surrounding architecture and the natural world around it, and engage with the local community / public realm. We didn’t want the building to turn its back on the street. The building is constructed around a steel frame with brickwork and glass at ground level, and timber walls at first floor lined with Siberian Larch. The roof is lined with slate with zinc detailing around the arched window and the lantern light. The lantern acts as a marker in the landscape.