Studio 11: Research
With Rute Nieto Ferreira, BA Architecture Unit, Brighton University
Studio 11 investigated the shoe factory town of East Tilbury (Thurrock, Essex). Built in the 1930s by Tomas Bata, a Czech shoe salesman and entrepreneur, he developed not only a factory but also a utopian town together with workers houses and shared community buildings: the Bata Farm and Orchard, Bata Dairy with Bata branded milk bottles, Bata Technical College, Bata Fire and Ambulance Service, Bata Social Club, Bata Cinema, Bata Ballroom, Bata Library, Bata Hotel and a Thomas Bata Statue.
Today shoes are no longer produced, workers no longer march to the sound of music and the factory houses are inhabited by retired workers or newcomers who commute to jobs elsewhere. But the modernist factory buildings still stand proud.
Studio 11 imagined future scenarios based on learning, research and testing for this town that has lost its main reason for existing.
What could Bata-ville be in the context of the vast Thames Gateway expansion? What will need to be questioned, adapted, inserted, demolished or preserved in order to make way for change?
How could the derelict factory buildings and houses be re-imagined to create a new working heart to the community? In this post-industrial future where heavy industries have mostly shifted abroad, Studio 11 proposed laboratories, research facilities, arts colonies and test-beds as a sort of new pacemaker for the town. We took precedent from the town’s listed structures, Bata’s civic and social ideologies and the stories we heard from the people we met there.
Three scales were tested and explored:
The Experiment: an intimate folly intervention;
The Grand Vision & Manifesto: Re-imagining Bata-ville’s future;
The Proposal: Zooming in at a building scale.
Together the studio has imagined a new civic centre with a pub, a plant conservation centre, an eco-town and school, an art foundation with residencies, an marshland aquaponics centre, reinstating the leather factory, two film schools, a recycled-toy factory, a specialist green roof research centre, a marina and hotel, a building college, a community centre and events space, a multi-faith assembly hall and an open lab for artists and scientists.
As Tomas Bata said: “Let us not be afraid of the future’.
See more on student studio blog