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Wed August 10 2022

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Whitehaven Harbour Central Site Competition: Winner announced

9 Dec 10 Richard Murphy Architects have won the competition to redevelop the Mark House and Park Nightclub site, which lies adjacent to Whitehaven harbour.

This circa GBP £10m mixed-use development of luxury residential apartments and high quality office accommodation will continue the dramatic transformation of Whitehaven’s former working port which has taken place over the past decade.  The competition was organised on behalf of Britain’s Energy Coast West Cumbria and Magnus Homes by RIBA Competitions, with the support of Places Matter! (the architecture centre for the Northwest).

The Judging Panel consisted of representatives from Britain’s Energy Coast West Cumbria, Copeland Borough Council, Magnus Homes, Places Matter! and Whitehaven Harbour Commissioners, together with Stephen Hodder (Hodder + Partners, Manchester) acting as the RIBA Architect Adviser.  Richard Murphy’s scheme was selected from a strong shortlist which also included design proposals developed by Austin-Smith Lord LLP; Renato Sarno Group Srl and Proginvest Srl; RMJM Scotland Ltd and ShedKM Architects.  The five teams having been short-listed from 139 entries submitted from around the globe to the first stage of the competition.

The Judging Panel felt that Richard Murphy’s scheme presented a very clever working of the plan and the proposed cluster arrangement would generate a rhythm appropriate to the urban grain of Whitehaven and massing of other existing developments on the harbour-side.  The former Bath House building was successfully incorporated into the design proposals, which would provide a memorable roofline silhouette against the backdrop of the hills surrounding the town and stunning panoramic views of the harbour from each apartment.    

Frank Lowe, Programme Director at Magnus Homes Ltd said:“Magnus Homes would like to thank everyone involved for their input into what has been a challenging and rewarding competition.  We can now go forward with a renowned architect to complete the harbourside development which we hope will be a catalyst for further regeneration of Whitehaven.” 

Stephen Hodder, RIBA Architect Adviser, Hodder + Partners commented: “Richard Murphy’s response to a challenging brief is delightful. It is a sophisticated three dimensional solution which addresses the many demanding requirements. The organisation of the proposals is ingenious with flexible office space being surmounted by a considered arrangement of apartments, all of which have sea views, many of which by distinctive ‘lantern windows’. It captures the spirit of this remarkable Georgian town and will reconnect it with the harbourside, adding an appropriate contemporary layer to its fabric”. 

Paul Crooks, Programme Manager at Britain’s Energy Coast West Cumbria added: “The selection of this scheme is the culmination of many months of hard work involving the Judging Panel, Technical Panel, the general public and from a wide range of architects and architectural practices. The scale of the initial submissions together with the strength of the shortlist meant that this was no easy decision but we consider this scheme gives Whitehaven the opportunity to gain an Architectural gem”. 

Celia MacKenzie, Chief Executive of Whitehaven Harbour Commissioners remarked:  “The winning submission fromRichard Murphy Architects offers a distinctly unique design for both the Harbour font and the townscape in Whitehaven. The diplomatic mass of the building is sympathetic to the existing roofline of the town and arrangement of the windows are a modern reflection of the existing oriole window on the seaward side of the Watch Tower on the Old Quay.  This is a most fitting design for the site which is a ‘shop window’ for this historic port." 

Richard Murphy commented:  "We are, of course, delighted to be able to play our part in developing this important site and assisting with the rejuvenation of the centre of Whitehaven.  Our design placed great emphasis on celebrating the site, giving all the flats panoramic views of the harbour, making a distinctive skyline and incorporating the surviving fragment of a historic swimming pool into the design.

It’s always very gratifying to win a competition and we have won a number of limited ones over the years.  However it is very special to win an open competition and such a hotly contested one.  It’s to the credit of Magnus Homes and Britain’s Energy Coast West Cumbria that they went down this route.  We wish architectural competitions were used more in this country as they are very much the norm on the continent and are a positive force for quality design."

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