First built to defend the British south coast from the threat of French invasion, Fort Bovisand is one of Plymouth’s least disturbed Palmerston Forts. This lack of human activity isn’t without its downsides, however, and the fort has long been falling into a state of disrepair. The Fort Bovisand Trust commissioned us to breathe new life into the site, restoring this Scheduled Monument, remodelling existing Grade II listed buildings, and designing a range of new public spaces and private housing to regenerate this coastal area.
As with any heritage project, one of the main challenges lay in balancing the new with the old. We wanted to respect the existing buildings wherever possible: where interventions were required, these were unapologetically modern. We designed new residential buildings to be highly sustainable. Largely undisturbed, the site has proven a perfect habitat for wildlife: protecting and supporting this wildlife has been a key part of our landscape and ecological approach.
We designed the site as a whole in close collaboration with the client, conservation officer, planning officer, and Historic England. A major enabling contract is necessary to stabilise the cliff supporting the only road into the site, so that construction traffic can safely gain access.
The site’s topology is unusual – the buildings and structures “cascade” down the hillside towards the sea – but we used this to our advantage, positioning new buildings to take advantage of the commanding views.
Visitors can go on a journey through the fort’s past, from stories of everyday military life to the site’s more recent history as a diving centre – in an area retained by the Trust for interpretation. As part of the planning approval, a new path links the South West Coastal Path down into the site and the historic harbour.
We’ve considered sustainability in every aspect of our designs. New apartments, detached, semi-detached and terraced houses will meet Passivhaus standards. The apartment building is stepped to reflect the steep topography of the site, and the houses will recede into the hillside to leave the fort’s appearance as undisturbed as possible. Residents and visitors will have exceptional public transport links and cycle routes, and existing ferry services are to return to the fort from nearby Plymouth. Picnic areas, a nature trail, and an outdoor amphitheatre will complement the existing landscape, and new nesting boxes will support its rich wildlife.
“The site at Fort Bovisand is quite spectacular, and constantly surprises us with something new and interesting to see every time we visit – often depending on weather and sea state!”– GRAHAM MCRUVIE, PROJECT DIRECTOR