Gabriele Bramante, who won detailed planning permission for this unusual mixed-use scheme to be built into the cliffs at Dover, has paid tribute to the 'inspired'planning officer who helped it all to happen.
Bramante, of Bramante Architects, told the AJ that the scheme - which she has pushed forward herself without having a developer or client in tow - had an excellent ear in Dover District Council's area planning officer, John Peall.
'He's just an inspired individual and I've had some planning officers so uninspired it beggars belief, 'she said. 'He's exceptional and a pleasure to deal with - every other planning officer would have thrown up their hands in opposition. He doesn't interfere with the design process and accepts design integrity. He deals expeditiously and professionally with planning issues and doesn't make you compromise the design.'
Bramante's scheme, in a building with views over the English Channel, is for 24 apartments and 580m 2of commercial space in a total floor area of 3,232m 2.The residential units are each double-height, while the commercial space- an office, surgery, restaurant and workshop - is contained in the strange-looking and colourful 'blobs' that penetrate through the flat roof.
Bramante says the colourful 'organic' and 'freestyle' building elements are intended to relate to the scheme's surrounding nature reserve to the rear. Loosely, the red 'blob' is the restaurant space, light grey is the office, blue is storage, yellow is a workshop, and the phallic green 'blob' is the surgery space. Meanwhile, inside the building 'pods' will provide 'little spaces' for bathrooms and studies in each residential unit which 'grow' through the building to make it more organic as it rises.
The other side of the building is more rectilinear, said Bramante, in order to relate to the Dover townscape.
Because of the sensitive nature of the site, immediately opposite Dover Castle, Bramante has had dealings on the project with a host of consultative bodies including English Heritage, English Nature and the Dover Society. The Highways Department initially objected to the plans on the grounds of insufficient parking provision. The whole ground floor is now parking and has been increased in height to cope with an extra tier of ramped car space.
Bramante bought the site from the local council subject to planning, after the council had marketed it unsuccessfully for two years. It had been designated for semi-detached housing. She is now looking for a developer or joint-venture partner to take forward the project and actually build it. 'I'm not able to realise it, 'she said. 'We will find a developer hopefully somehow.'