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Konishi Gaffney wins Cumbrian beachfront café contest


Edinburgh-based Konishi Gaffney Architects has won a competition to design a £380,000 beachfront café in Silecroft, Cumbria

The practice, working with structural engineer Entuitive and quantity surveyor Thomson Gray, topped an undisclosed shortlist to win the contest organised by Copeland Borough Council.

The competition attracted almost 60 entries from across the UK, including bids by Projects Office, Assorted Skills + Talents*, Mark Wray Architects, and OEB Architects.

Architect-led teams were asked to come up with a ‘high-quality, eco-friendly, contemporary eye-catching’ retail pavilion to replace a temporary café at the beach, which is the only coastal bathing area in the Lake District. The winning team’s fee is £38,000 – around 10 per cent of the project budget – according to the contract award notice

The 160m2 single-storey building will have a 30-capacity café, a kitchen, toilets and a small office, retail and information area. Externally it will include a shower, up to 16 seats with shelter from the wind and rain, and landscaping. The  ‘low energy, low maintenance’ facility will also integrate visitor information for residents and tourists. It is planned to complete next year.

The winning team will take the project up to and beyond the planning stage, working up fully costed drawings to the end of RIBA stage 4 ready for tendering for construction. Bids were evaluated 60 per cent on quality, 25 per cent on price and 15 per cent on cost.

The architects’ view

Konishi Gaffney Architects' competition-winning proposal for a new £380,000 beachfront café in Silecroft, Cumbria

Konishi Gaffney Architects’ competition-winning proposal for a new £380,000 beachfront café in Silecroft, Cumbria

Taking traditional white harled sea cottages as inspiration, Konishi Gaffney developed a design with two sheltered, canted courtyards, one facing Black Combe Fell; the other, the sea. Views to the sea and the fell are maximised through the splayed forms which provide shelter from the blowing wind regardless of direction.

The design of the building takes the pitched slate roof vernacular of the Lake District and adapts this to suit the beach context. The timber-framed building will be very highly insulated, while integrated solar PV and a wood-burning stove provide power and top-up heating when required.

The low eaves help the building to ‘hunker down’ into its site to protect from the sometimes, extreme climatic conditions. Render is used in seaside locations as it provides a solid waterproof outer skin against driving rain. These proposed white panel walls are balanced against large black-stained, timber sliding shutters which protect the building during storms and allow a robust out-of-hours arrangement. A black base course grounds the building and extends to form a courtyard. Large fixed panes of glass frame the expansive views over the beach and Irish Sea.

The solid mass of the building is a robust defence against weather conditions and allows for the enjoyment of the beach all year round. A minimal palette of materials -– slate, render, black timber – is employed to create a modest addition to the natural landscape.


Readers' comments (2)

  • Should RIBA be backing low budget competitions like this?
    The cumulative cost of speculated time, energy, resources for 60 practices to design fully costed submissions way exceeds the total construction budget of £380k and speculated time for any entrant would form a significant chunk of the £38k fee.
    Respect to everyone who took part - I've seen some lovely schemes, and indeed to the winners but can't help thinking that this would have been better dealt with as an Expression of Interest, and then limited design competition.

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  • Industry Professional

    Nice scheme but it looks more like a bungalow than a café.

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