A Development within a World Heritage Site – Bath, England

by jlevetjr

For a full semester, our design studio focused on redeveloping an area in Bath, England, a World Heritage site known for its 18th-century Georgian buildings.  After focusing on numerous projects located within the city, the team traveled to England on a grant-funded trip to experience the city first-hand and present the design to the locals!


The Circus – Bath, England

The beginning of the project was a team effort in developing a master plan for an area in the fold of the river Avon, east of Manvers street, near the Bath Spa Railway Station.  Most of the city within the World Heritage site contains stunning Georgian townhouses and civic buildings.  This area, however, is less fortunate in its development and consists of modernist office buildings, multiple parking lots, a police station, and a large mail-sorting office.  Each of these is slated to either be moved to another site or have a short projected lifespan, opening the site for development in the near future.

Axonometric View of Existing Conditions (shown from the SE)

Axonometric View of Existing Conditions (shown from the SE)

The history of the site involves an initial development plan by John Wood the Elder, with which he proposed a large octagonal basin surrounded by an elevated portico supporting terraced buildings.  With the colossal size of the project (the space alone measured 1040x624ft), it was only partially completed.

The team’s resulting plan for the neighborhood envisions reinstituting traditional urban blocks and spaces, utilizing the building types found throughout the city.  A necklace of public spaces was formed by a number of mixed-use buildings.

Axonometric View of the Proposed Redevelopment (shown from the SE)

Axonometric View of the Proposed Redevelopment (shown from the SE)

Above, one can see the redevelopment in its final phase.  An elegant gate welcomes those arriving by train into Ralph Allen Court, an intimate plaza lined with shops and apartments.  With the river now being used for pleasure instead of utility as it was in the past, an emphasis was placed on how to face the river as well as providing public access to the water.  Thus, the spaces are designed to bring the visitor further through Padmore Square and into Riverview Terrace.  At this interesting location near the bridge, a new home for the Bath Society Hall and Conference Center is planned, which was designed in detail in another project.  Fronting Riverview Terrace is a large row of adaptable terraced houses, also designed in detail.  A series of mews provide access to the rear of buildings for private use and more utilitarian purposes.  An open-air market hall is strategically placed at the connecting point of the Riverview Terrace and Forum Square and stands directly in front of a descent to the water, similar to the Porta Ripeta in Rome. This connection to the water continues along the river with a riverside walkway along the entire project.  The sunken parking lot in front of the large St. John’s Church is kept but is simply covered to create a formalized public garden.

In the research stage, a Georgian building used as a post office was found hidden among the modern postal sorting office, disguised by a large, shed roof.  This building is uncovered in the plan and is set to remain serving as a civic building.  Coincidentally, the structure is aligned exactly with the center of John Wood’s plan, and a marker was set across the river at the midpoint of his proposed colossal forum.

River Elevation of the Proposed Design

River Elevation of the Proposed Design

Excitingly, after the project’s completion, the team won a series of grants to travel to Bath and presented the design to the City Council, local architects and developers, interested citizens, and several representatives from local organizations.  Both the Chairman of the Council and the Council Leader gave welcoming addresses.

In Bath, the team stayed in an 18th-century Georgian townhouse, and toured the city in its entirety.  While, that’s a topic for another post, here are a few pictures from our visit!

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The team involved with the design of this project and the produced drawings include Patrick Alles, Mary Elizabeth Bland, Taksit Dhanagom, Ricardo Gonzalez, Cameron Henry, Kelsie Hoke, Jacques Levet, Caroline Swinehart, Katherine Torvinen, Daniel Witt, Jingwen Zhao under Prof. Richard Economakis