Global interest in competition to ‘re-imagine’ Sidmouth

PUBLISHED: 06:30 28 March 2016

The area to be considered in the Re-imagining Port Royal architecture competition

The area to be considered in the Re-imagining Port Royal architecture competition


Entries have already come in from as far afield as Japan and Peru in a competition to ‘re-imagine’ Port Royal and Sidmouth’s eastern town.

RBM Architects have launched the challenge to inspire new thinking from architects, designers and artists across the globe that could one day be put into practice.

A jury, made up of locals and professions in the field, will shortlist five designs and a public vote will decide the favourite this summer.

Organiser Henry Beech Mole – who was in year eight at Sidmouth College when talk of regenerating Port Royal first began – said: “There’s a whole section of the town that’s contested.

“I thought it would be interesting to allow anything from an urban intervention to site-specific designs at Port Royal, or maybe public art.

“This competition encourages new thinking about the area. It’s about imagining what could be, rather than what currently is.”

Entitled ‘Re-imagining Port Royal’, the competition gives architects the freedom to consider a ‘rather unloved’ area from the seafront as far north as The Byes, and from the eastern bank of the River Sid to Fore Street.

It only officially opened today (Friday), but several firms have already got wind of it.

Henry has received around five entries a day over the last week – including from Peru and Kobe in Japan – and he is expecting a flurry of activity in the run-up the June 24 deadline.

The website has already had around 2,000 views.

According to the competition brief, the site encompasses an area facing several ‘strategic’ challenges - economic austerity, an ageing population, the pull of urban centres, rising tides and coastal erosion.

“But it is part of what has long been a much-loved and unique Regency resort, typified by impressive views, landscapes, and Georgian architecture,” it adds.

“The competition aims to inspire ideas that will help redefine Sidmouth’s long-term prosperous future.”

The brief praises the Vision Group for Sidmouth, Sea Fest and the Drill Hall campaign for inspiring new thinking – not just architecturally, but also economically, socially, and environmentally – and says the competition seeks to widen ideas further still.

Henry hopes to attract entries from architects, designers, artists and other related professions.

Competitions are typical when procuring designs for a proposed building, but this approach is more unusual as it is just about ideas, he says.

This is partly because sections of the site are owned by Sidmouth Town Council, East Devon District Council, South West Water and ‘tens, if not hundreds,’ of others in the private sector.

Henry said RBM Architects would not be involved in the procurement of the winning idea – that was up to whoever owned the land.

“The intention is not to sweep away what’s there,” he said. “It’s to consider the whole thing and propose something that’s trying to answer questions and solve problems. The shortlist will go to a public vote”

He is expecting entries to come as drawings and 3D visuals so they can be easily understood when they are exhibited to the public in July. The vote will be held in August.

District councillor Cathy Gardner, who has supported the competition from its infancy, said: “I am excited about seeing different ideas. Who knows what will happen in the end, but different views on what is possible must be a good thing - Sidmouth deserves something special.”

It costs £50 to enter.

Anyone interested should visit

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