We’ve reinvented a collection of historic warehouses and industrial sheds to create a destination for the local community, visitors and those passing through.

We’ve turned scruffy, unused light-industrial buildings and a yard into a start-up workspace with a co-working incubator. With a ‘tropical paradise’ for food, drinks and events on site, the complex forms a new social and cultural meeting place. All together Coachworks has become a creative campus, which that is more than the sum of its parts.

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 The 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.

We worked 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.

It went from this:
• A collection of scruffy, unused light industrial buildings surrounding a yard

To this:
• A start-up workspace and a co-work incubator
• A ‘tropical paradise’ for food, drinks and events
• A new social and cultural meeting place
• A creative campus which is greater than the sum of its parts

How we did it:
• We won an ‘open ideas’ competition organised by Ashford Council.
• We drew on Ashford’s history as a centre of agriculture, trade and transport.
• We identified the strengths of the existing structures and celebrated them.

What you’ll find:
• 1,571 metres of indoor and outdoor space
• Workspace
• A co-work incubator
• Food and drink venues
• A social and cultural meeting place
• An outdoor room with all sorts of possible uses

And just as importantly:
• 12 studios
• An artist in residence program
• 7 food kiosks
• A hole in the wall barista
• 2 bars
• Internal and external event spaces
• Exhibition space
• Market space
• Public spaces for community events

Client:
Ashford Borough Council

Completed:
2019

Photography:
Guy Archer
Turner Works

Awards:
Runner Up Commercial Development of the Year – South East Property Awards 2020