The aim of the client was to revitalise Boathouse 4 by restoring the existing building fabric, giving visitors free access to a permanent boat exhibition/interpretation and café, and providing boatbuilding facilities.
Following a successful Heritage Lottery Fund Stage 1 bid and a competition, Walters & Cohen was appointed by the Portsmouth Naval Base Property Trust to transform an industrial shed in Portsmouth Historic Dockyard into a destination that promotes the building’s historic value as a timber boatbuilding enterprise, upholding teaching skills that would otherwise be lost and exhibiting the PNBPT’s historic small boat collection.
Original features within the space have been restored in a way that enriches the significant historical relevance of Boathouse 4. For example, the existing boatlifting cranes were refurbished with the conservation of their function very much in mind, and the new first floor provides dramatic views over the original tidal dock.
The vision was for this impressive space to become a ‘cathedral’ to boatbuilding. A large window to the south provides a welcoming frontage, transparency and views to the activity inside. The generous new entrance area is full height and essentially part of the boatbuilding shop beyond. Visitors immediately experience the full impact of this unusual space, made yet more dramatic by the suspension of a boat over the entrance. They circulate around the building, watching the boatbuilding activities below, and arrive at the dual-aspect restaurant/café with its unique position overlooking the boatbuilding and the sea.
Walters & Cohen worked with exhibition designer Real Studios to develop a permanent exhibition celebrating the heritage skills of boatbuilding in an engaging and immersive way. At first floor level a selection of small boats are placed in a series of dry docks, allowing visitors to view and touch the vessels.