Dunbar Battery – A Year of Coasts and Waters Case Study

Submitted by RankinFraser

Client: Dunbar Harbour Trust

The project is the design of a new public gathering and performance space within the Category B Listed Lamer Island Battery in the coastal town of Dunbar. The civil defensive bastion was built in 1781. The site subsequently housed a hospital for infectious diseases and military hospital during WW1. Whilst latterly it became ruined, it remained full of potential due to its stunning coastal location, rich history and intriguing topography. Lamer Island, the rocky outcrop the battery built on, is accessed from Dunbar Harbour via a lifting bridge.

Our design exploits the site’s palimpsest, using layers of history to inform and guide the design and distribution of various contemporary interventions; a new amphitheatre, artwork, planting and seating. The interventions are designed to be distinct and compliment the historic battery fabric. The robust and reduced material palette of; primarily oak, larch and concrete responds to the exposed coastal location and complements the richness of the existing stone walls.

The design purposely works with the existing structure. The most significant new structure the amphitheatre is integrated into an existing void formed between the upper and lower levels of the battery to transform the space into a multi-functional performance arena. This has proved to be a very well used since the project completion hosting carol concerts, orchestras and theatre productions.

The repair and conservation of the historic structure was an important part of the project.

A process of archaeological investigation preceded and informed the design work. Further elements of historic interest such as a fumigation oven and hospital foundations were incorporated into the design as they were uncovered during the course of construction.

Previously difficult to access, the site has been opened up to everybody through the introduction of an interpretive concrete path linking the revitalised battery to the harbour. A garden with coastal plants animates the top level.

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