We present here some possibilities for the Saxonvale site, moving away from Acorn’s housing-led scheme.
Saxonvale still has the potential to be developed as an important extension to the town centre; providing future employment capacity, much needed economic vitality and a landscape of dynamic architectural merit. The masterplan seeks to create a strong primary public link between Garsdale and Saxonvale along an East-West axis, which helps to connect the site back to its immediate locality and the Town Centre.
The draft masterplan brings the development forward as a series of ‘quarters’ with a variety of uses complimentary to the towns needs. This involves a variety of residential, self / custom build, a new school, business incubation / start up units, mixed use live / work units, heritage and public / cultural uses - all connected up with strong 'pedestrian priority' public realm.
The secondary connections throughout the site bring the proposed users to this central axis, which results in a mix of uses and atmospheres. Mayday asks the question; "how we can make the most of this space, make it vibrant and accessible, of an appropriate human scale, which meets the needs of the town?"
Tiny Homes form an essential part of the Mayday Masterplan representing a starting point for people wanting to construct their own well-living environment. We have designed a space in the plan which is efficiently integrated into the two-storey or stacked parking infrastructure, and working with the contours of the land, a rooftop platform can support this new Tiny Home community. An efficient pattern of 3.5m x 7.5m ‘starter plots’ will offer custom build opportunities for home builders to create their ideal mini home. The custom build model means you can design and build your own home in the allocated space and height, which will bring inventiveness and variety in its own right projecting important sustainable principles that have been championed in Frome.
The design layout is integrated with raised bed food growing areas for each home, but along the Tiny Home ’street’, spaces connect up to larger communal areas. Green infrastructure ‘cascades’ over and onto the vertical wall of the parking structure to form ‘green walls’ which allow for significant wildlife habitat for biodiversity gains on the site. Andrew Kirby Architects has investigated growing walls for clients across a number of projects and this proposal is founded on well-established principles. The overall rooftop arrangement creates an inventive and cost effective use of space for start up homes, and brings light into the development from the south and views to the north.
Hill Village quarter sits at the top, southernmost part of the site. Residential housing felt like the right response to this area, and in order to understand how this might meaningfully sit in the site, Andrew Kirby Architects visited Innox Hill among other parts of Frome to find inspiration helping inform this important quarter. The wonderful intricacies, patterns and 'ad hoc' beauty of Innox Hill inspired a design approach responsive to the topography of the site and important existing features like the Old Town Wall leading down from The Merchants Barton. A pedestrian ‘crossroads’ sits at the corner and entrance to the Hill Village, with strong traditional features of the walls anchoring the development to the site and leading you into this secluded quarter.
Meaningful ‘place-making' is key here, and as the design for this area develops through consultation, there is an opportunity for a diverse pattern of community homes and spaces looking into shared inner courtyard space. The design will encourage food growing, high biodiversity landscaping and intimate public spaces where residents can enjoy a peaceful atmosphere, while still feeling connected to Saxonvale and Frome.
Important sight lines to St Johns Church and Vicarage Street from pedestrian links to Hill Village keeping pedestrians and residents orientated and connected to Frome. Intricate links and connections lead into the housing itself and raised pavements form new ’shared space' frontages for neighbourly social interaction, and spaces to sit outside and enjoy the morning sun, or views and sunsets to the north west.
The sloping nature of the site give the backs of the houses the opportunity to have sunken ‘greenhouses’ facing south east and west and an additional covered area connecting back into the home. Whilst Hill Village feels like a hidden part of the site, this makes it no less important adding to our inspiration to create an intimate and inspiring place to live for potential future Saxonvale residents.
Commercial Zone & Public Space
The retro-fit approach utilises the pre-existing architectural resources from the twentieth century built for the engineering industry. Press Shops 1&2 are repurposed to accommodate flexible modular commercial space alongside a business incubation management plan; the aim is to provide attractive and varied opportunities for Frome's growing independent business community.
The roof structure of Notts Store at its southern end is stripped back to provide a covered market and a linked interior and exterior public space which can be used for cultural and commercial events throughout the year. This can function in all seasons and through the use of mezzanine levels, offer additional commercial units above.
Through careful demolition, some curtilage of the Press Shops would be removed allowing for a wide, tree lined pedestrianised route to be created; connecting the southern quarters of the masterplan to the river. Business premises located in Press Shops 1&2 would have active fronts along a busy thoroughfare and linking to the footbridge at Willow Vale to access Rodden Meadow and the town centre.
The inclusion of a riverside Lido with a 25m pool extends the idea that the redevelopment of this site can help promote health and well-being within the town and not just provide homes and commercial space. Lido's around the UK have had a renaissance over the past decade with regular travel to facilities by people enjoying the opportunity to swim outside. With the Stonebridge leisure centre swimming pool next to Frome College, we imagine a new Lido would be a welcome and complimentary resource for the town.
To maintain a predominantly pedestrianised feel, carparks and carpools are mainly located at site peripheries. A two storey car park is proposed to the west of the Press Shops relocating the Mendip carpark opposite M+S and caters for the needs of new commercial capacities.
St John's School Quarter
In collaboration with St John's School, the north east corner of the site has been allocated for education. Mayday architects have imagined a series of simple two storey volumes with indoor and outdoor classrooms on a southerly orientation with solar shading and courtyards. Solar photo voltaics would meet all the energy demands of the school with the internal space connected by a western circulation axis running north south. The building will have practical access from the new parking area to the east and be protective of the existing green corridors that are such a visible and valued feature of Rivers Reach. This site has a strong connectivity to natural green space offering St John's vastly improved outdoor and recreational facilities over their current site on Christchurch Street East. The health of children will benefit from utilising this area of Saxonvale and maximise the enjoyment and opportunity presented by creating a new riverside park. A new school in this location would frame the vibrant, mixed-use urban space around the Western Warehouse Quarter promoting strong linkage to the existing town centre with points of pedestrian and bicycle connectivity.
The plan to relocate St John’s School is a balanced solution to land use; no more traffic will be generated to this destination than at present whilst directly benefiting children and the wider school community. Use of the new riverside park can be maximised for recreational use, sports, play and forest school learning, as well as the ability to cycle and walk to work via new green corridors, enlivening connections with the town centre, and creating people friendly localities.
Western Warehouse Quarter
The Western Warehouse Quarter aims to achieve this vibrancy with a 'mixed use' block, which sits comfortably within its important heritage context. The aerial view shows a lively block of diverse uses where people live, work and play. An opportunity arises for a characterful street scene to the south animated by day to day life. Successful place-making is crucial and is achieved through the provision of key views to landmarks, characterful architecture, variety of form and sympathetic landscape treatments. These masterplan ideas will help users identify with the site topography, its history and its wider context. The Western Warehouse rises to the west and orientates the user around the site, with the spire of St Johns Baptist Church visible on the towns skyline above. In step with global trends towards maximising pedestrian and cycle friendly towns, cities and developments, the design prioritises a mix of pedestrianised commercial opportunities including independent retail, side by side with flexible live-work. The aim is not only to minimise car traffic and future congestion on access roads around the town, but importantly to extend Frome town centre as a cultural and commercial destination.
Historic Merchants' Barton
During the twentieth century, and for centuries before, to the mills and factories of Saxonvale, workers have used the Merchants Barton as their central point of access, a key public pedestrian link between places of work and living. We want to celebrate this history by reinvigorating this ‘missing' barton as a place to visit, as well as pass through. Retail cloisters are proposed beneath the Old Town Wall providing opportunities for pop-ups, small artisan and independent retailers.
It has been a long-standing ambition as part of the renovation of The Bennett Centre, to lower the level of the car park. This would provide disabled access and, in so doing, gloriously reveal the hidden basement facade which is of significant architectural merit. We propose a new archway through into the Barton, allowing for pedestrian access to the listed building cluster, Western Warehouse Quarter and other routes.
A natural spring along this passage, would provide an exciting opportunity for a health and well-being destination right in Frome's town centre. A Hamam, easily accessible from the town and the Barton, would be partially housed in the existing old abattoir which retains structures dating to the same period as the Silk Mill. Proposed commercial blocks to the north of the Hamam and Silk Mill are designed to maintain uninterrupted views to the listed building cluster and St John’s Church and are no more than two storeys.
The retail and commercial block to the west of the Western Warehouse, utilises the level change with under-croft parking, which is one-way and exits onto Saxonvale. South facing single storey commercial and retail units face the Silk Mill courtyard with proposed tree planting and public circulation spaces to provide passive solar shading. Adjacent to the Western Warehouse a large staircase provides access down to renovated Press Shop No.1 & 2. and Notts Store; a new interior and exterior public square and covered market area are housed beneath the existing warehouse roof structures.
In 2019 the British Government declared a Climate Emergency and as architects we feel it our duty to deliver sustainable designs with this in mind. Following this logic and with an environmentally conscious approach, we believe in a 'retro-fit first' strategy to reimagining existing building stock to be a priority, advocating creative re-use of existing buildings in the first instance. Overall, we want a development with the maximum benefit and functionality for the community of Frome and with the smallest environmental footprint.
Collective studies by the design team filter comments and support design ideas interpreting them into a new masterplan for the site. With on-going input and consultation with the community, this can be an agreed community masterplan, with supporting Design Codes to which the standards of the project could be agreed and potentially delivered.