Life's a beach

Holly Barber (BA Architecture, Y1) talks about the Year 1 field trip to Cleethorpes.

Beach structure

Starting out

I felt our final year one project was a great way to end the year- after focussing on longer, larger-scale design projects we were told to work at a 1:1 scale to create a sandcastle and protective tent on Cleethorpes beach. Creating this project in real life helped me to appreciate the physical contextual factors that can affect your design, like how people use the space already, and how you can best fit around existing activities. This was a short two-week project in larger groups of around 20. Half of us focussed on the tent element of the proposal and the other half developed the sandcastle.

We started by analysing the site, in particular tide movements, weather, and the local history, so that we could create an intervention that was sensitive to the microclimate and responded to local history. After this we each discussed our tent ideas, having never worked in a group so large before, it was a learning process to work out how to combine 10 different people’s ideas. We appointed project managers, researchers, reporters, health and safety officers and a treasurer to emulate the different roles involved in design offices. This gave me an idea of the environment I might be working in after I finish my degree.

Beach structure

The project

The project was very fast-paced so after a day of researching and testing ideas, we ordered materials to begin building. As there are some dual engineers in our studio, they helped us make structure-related decisions. I began testing methods of draping and cutting the fabric whilst others started building the wooden structure of the tent in the George Porter workshop. We then brought all the materials back to the studio to put the tent up for an interim review of our work. After making a few alterations to make our three-meter-tall tent slightly safer we packed it in the van ready to transport to Cleethorpes beach.

We then moved on to the field trip portion of the project. This involved two days in Cleethorpes culminating in a final review of all the groups’ tents. On the first day we chose our location on the beach- to do this we considered tide movements, sand moistness and ease of transportation of materials. After this, we began building a prototype of our sandcastle as a whole group.

My group built our sandcastle by having the sandcastle team develop a style and concept in studio, which we then were all able to replicate at a much larger scale on the beach.

Our end sandcastle was layered and geometric, with features like stairs and doorways to give an impression of an inhabited structure. After having completed this we had time in the evening for socialising and bowling, before an early start the next morning ready to build our structure before high tide.

We started by building our full-size sandcastle and experimented with adding a pit as well as a peak to represent the rise and fall of local industries. We then received the partially constructed parts of our tent we had made in the studio and began building the tent over the top of the sandcastle. It was exciting to see the structure we’d been working on finally in its intended context, and its height didn’t seem quite so tall compared to the vastness of the beach. It was also good to see the tent and sandcastle brought together for the first time and see how the same concept of oscillation had been imagined very differently in the two parts.

Final thoughts

Overall, this was probably my favourite project of first year. 

I enjoyed how hands-on it was and it was a great opportunity to work as a team and realise the different skills my peers can bring to the table. It was a good chance to see how members of the public can interact with your designs- as various people came to chat with us about what we were up to. It was also good to work at a 1:1 scale, this helped me appreciate how anthropometrics can affect building design.

- Holly Barber, Undergraduate Student, BA Architecture