Beginning in the late 1800s, the Bata Shoe Company built master planned communities around the world that integrated its factories with residential homes, schools, sports facilities and other buildings. Some of the factories have been closed and buildings and properties that were once used to manufacture shoes and house the workers that made them are now being redeveloped.
Another redevelopment project involving a former Bata community is taking place in East Tilbury, UK, located approximately 50 km west of London. The area–now known as Thames Industrial Park–is undergoing a dramatic transformation, and one of the firm’s that has been engaged to design a masterplan and buildings is Raw Architecture.
In the process of researching the project, Paul Crawley at Raw Architecture reached out to Dalton to request a site tour of the project that we are managing on behalf of Batawa Development Corporation. Our project manager, Jason Judson, was happy to oblige. So, Paul Crawley and a colleague jumped on a plane this summer, flew across the Atlantic and spent the better part of a day with Jason touring the site.
We interviewed Paul Crawley (PC) to learn more about their project and what he took away from the site tour.
Dalton: Please briefly describe the development you are undertaking in England and your role on the project.
PC: Phase One of the project that Hexa Homes, our client, has hired us to complete involves 50 townhouses on the former Bata computer centre site, with landscaping works to the frontage of the Bata site along Princess Margaret Road and Building 13. Phase One is approximately halfway through completion.
We are in the initial stages of Phase Two, where our client has aspirations to develop the remainder of Bata factory site, which includes the multi-stage factory buildings. This largely comprises houses on open land, residential conversion (apartments) in the three multi-storey buildings and the retention of the majority of the single storey buildings for employment use.
I designed the houses and masterplan of Phase One and submitted the planning application. My designs were then passed onto a larger architect’s practice, LOM Architects, to detail and build out the scheme. I am currently working for the client to research how to progress the wider masterplan and research what has been achieved with other Bata buildings around the world, hence our visit to Batawa.
Dalton: How did you learn about Dalton’s involvement in the Bata Shoe condominium project in Batawa?
PC: I heard about Dalton’s involvement in the Batawa project as I searched for Bata developments periodically on the Internet. Dalton’s name was typically at the top of search results for Bata in Canada and Batawa.
Dalton: Why did you feel it was important to fly to Canada and visit the project site?
PC: As with many of the Bata buildings, they share common components and layouts. The five-storey factory buildings in particular are very similar across the world. As the Batawa building is near identical to one of our buildings, it represented a great opportunity to see how the building has been refurbished and re-purposed as well as discover what potential issues were encountered during this process. The quality and depth of the work, in particular, lead to our decision to make the journey to Canada.
Dalton: What was your overall impression of Dalton’s work? Were there any features that particularly grabbed your attention?
PC: We were all incredibly impressed with every aspect of the refurbishment. The extent of the work, attention to detail and the conviction were all considerable. On a practical note, we are also impressed with how well the project was resourced both in investment in quality of materials and fittings, and also the amount of workers on site and how well the site was run.
Dalton: What helpful insights did my tour provide to you and your team?
PC: We found the visit incredibly helpful. Typically, buildings are unique, so it’s rare to have the opportunity to walk through what could be done to “your own building” before you have started any construction work. Your tour highlighted the considerable amount of work and, in particular, the amount of investment that has gone into the building.
Dalton: How will you apply the information and knowledge you have gained to your own project?
PC: The information that we gained from our visit will be invaluable in the how we treat and develop our buildings, the timing of the work and how we present our proposals to important conservation bodies, such as English Heritage.