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Being Bold: Making Modern Design Work In Conservation Areas

Posted 2 March 2022 by Keith Osborne

Julian Hampson of Acorn Property Group on the design of The Liner on the beachfront of Falmouth, Cornwall...

Julian Hampson, group design director and Acorn Green Ambassador for Acorn Property Group, on new homes architecture that respects and enhances its location.

“Whilst walking on the South West Coast Path on the Lizard last year I was looking back across Falmouth Bay and realised I could make out the sleek lines of Acorn’s striking contemporary development The Liner over four miles away.

“The Liner is a landmark along this historic and picturesque piece of coast. While it may not be to everyone’s taste (what architecture is?), it does demonstrate how modern design can enhance and complement conservation areas.

The LinerPhoto: © Beach Retreats

“Falmouth’s historic focus was the river and harbour, but the arrival of the railway in Victorian times turned it into a holiday destination. Over subsequent years, the town expanded southwards to embrace Gyllyngvase Beach which has given Falmouth a mixture of period and 20th-century architecture. More recently the university has brought an arty edge to the town.

“Occupying the site of a former hotel that burned down in 2012, The Liner is a development of 52 apartments and street frontage commercial space, directly overlooking the beach. It is bold and unapologetically contemporary in its design and a dynamic example of how modern architecture can be a catalyst for regeneration.

“Designed by St Ives-based architects PBWC, its modernist look is influenced by its coastal location, the gently bowing horizontal lines of the balconies subtly reflecting the curves and prow of an ocean-going liner breaking through the waves.

“It makes good use of the brownfield site, efficiently designed but without being overly dominating. It provides energy-efficient homes that satisfy modern demands and has commercial uses at ground level to generate activity and interest at a focal point in the town.

“The single storey commercial space with its undulating roof moderates the scale at street level. The lush grass and fern roof adds biodiversity and a softness to the edge of the scheme as well as creating a dialogue with the Queen Mary Gardens across the street.

“With a distinctly Mediterranean feel, The Liner would not look out of place on the harbourfront of Marseilles or Cannes. It also extends the British mid 20th-century modernist tradition started with the De La Warr pavilion in Bexhill on Sea. Its dynamic form is enhanced by each balcony having a slightly greater projection than the one below. The overall effect makes it feel as if the building is sailing towards the bay.

“But the balconies are not just there for appearance, they also moderate solar gain by reducing high angle summer solar overheating whilst allowing low angle winter sun. It’s a passive, environmentally conscious model which Acorn is keen to repeat on future projects.

The Liner“When designing in a conservation area you have a choice of replicating the historic patterns, of designing complementary contemporary architecture, or in fact anything in between. All options can be valid, but the most important point is it has to be done well, with skill and care.

“Whether the architecture is contemporary or traditional it should be designed in consultation with the local community and stakeholders. It should enhance and add value to the place. The Liner has been boldly designed to engage and enliven a prominent site, to complement the urban grain, and we believe the end result, all round, is a positive one.

“The daring design comes with risks but we think it adds real identity to the area, whether looking back from the beach or looking back across the bay. The Liner is arguably one of the most striking modern buildings on the South West coast. It’s placemaking with identity, beauty and dynamism.”


Find out more about current Acorn Property Group developments.


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