Turner Works

Turner Works

1. If you’ve ever stared at a completely blank page, you’ll probably know that it’s not always conducive to putting pen to paper. Look instead at the bigger picture.

Ashford is very much on the map in more ways than one. Eurostar trains stop here. There are high-speed trains to London, and the M20 passes close by. But long before fast trains and the motor car, Ashford was a prosperous farming and merchant town. It still has one of the country’s largest livestock markets. And now ‘The Commercial Quarter’, very close to the railway station, is the site of major development. It’s here, among the new blocks and rising towers, that you’ll find Coachworks.

When Ashford Borough Council put out a call for ‘open ideas’ for an interim use for this site, we knew this was one for us. We love the challenge of an ‘open ideas’ competition. It’s about thinking ‘this could be anything’ while simultaneously homing in on what’s right for the place and the community. So it’s about thinking out of the box but within the box – in this case quite literally.

2. Context can be a great starting point for creativity.

We would be working with the existing warehouses and sheds, carefully refurbishing them and adding new structures beneath their roofs and between their walls. We thought carefully about the people who would have gone about their work here in previous centuries – it had been the site of railway workshops, a brewery, garages, and even a mill. We took in the wider context too: the locomotive works nearby, the goods yards and the railway sidings. And we learnt all we could about the town’s vision for the future. It was vital that whatever we came up with was true to its sense of strategic, commercial and agricultural importance. Doing some serious research is part of the satisfaction of doing a good job. Take pleasure in immersing yourself in the historical detail.

3. Think big, however small you might feel.


You could say that Coachworks is but a tiny and temporary drop in a sea of movement, construction and changing opportunities. But this would never dent our ambition. If this little hub of activity, conviviality and possibility can remind its neighbours of the power of the small and the short-term, then it will have done its job.  And if it’s done its job, then we’ve done ours too.

Something to think about:

Are there any open ideas competitions you could think about entering, even if on paper you don’t quite tick all the boxes? Sometimes it’s just a question of teaming up with people who have skills that complement yours. We’re a great believer in collaborations, and we’re always open to talking about the possibilities.