A stone's throw from one of North Devon's best beaches, the replacement building aims to nestle into it's coastal context.

Drawing Board
Lewis Johnson
November 30, 2020

Saunton, and how the concept is a direct response to its location.

Utilitarian yet sculped, functional yet minimal. How simple volumes have responded to simple uses in an elegant way.

Saunton Sand Beach is situated within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and is at the centre of the UNESCO-designated North Devon's Biosphere Reserve, where Braunton Burrows lies at the heart and Croyde located just around the headland. It is popular with surfers, both local and tourists who often come to learn to surf, and where better.

Our brief to reinvent the appearance of the existing structure which serves Walking on Waves - a local Surf School established by Sarah Whiteley, a former European champion has realised a building which offers much the same uses as the existing informal structure, but enhances the appeal of the school. Currently, a raised deck fronts the pathway leading to the beach, with board storage beneath, and a garden shed houses wetsuits of varting size.

Our concept derives simply from the 4 separate uses/needs of the replacement structure. The massing is characterised by the different uses, and the building is functional. The limited footprint led to the creative use of space to realise a modest building which meets all of the current and future needs of the business.

A newly formed reception area fronts the public thoroughfare to the north, with bifold doors opening to allow a seamless connection between outside and in, and forms an inviting transition for potential customers. This space is large enough to provide a desk & storage/shelving and a number of seats/bench. Steps to the deck alongside the reception volume lead to the raised replacement deck which will view over the dunes towards the sea. The most southern volume will be the wetsuit store and 2no. changing rooms. Storage of the surfboards remain beneath the deck to make maximum use of this volume. The entire structure will be wrapped with vertically hung  timber cladding; pre-weathered to make reference to the coastal location. The grey/silver tones mimic driftwood, and are muted colours appropriate to the surroundings.

The timber will continue up alongside the steps and the terrace, with every other slat removed, forming a perforated balustrade. A metal handrail will tie it all together and allow views through to the deck. The top of the balustrade is to line through with the parapet roof(s) for continuity and the roof itself is suggested as a living roof with dune-like grasses to relate to the dunes directly alongside.

This helps to show evidence of contextual consideration and limits the impact of the building in its sensitive location, aiming for a seamless transition between the building and the dunes behind. A strong underpinning relationship to its coastal context will aid it in settling into its surroundings, while being of architectural intrigue.

Moving forward.

Shortly, a planning application will be submitted in the hope that the LPA can see the sensitive approach in the sensitive location. There is a need from a tourism/business point of view instead of simply a desire. To ensure commercial longevity, the business needs to be able to grow and expand, which has been the catalyst for this activity. Instead of simply an aid or a tool to enhance the day to day running of the business, I can add to the setting and act as it a marketing tool as much as a functional and practical structure.

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