Getting under the skin of great design with the Onion Collective
From what started as the seed of an idea, planted by social enterprise Onion Collective, has grown into East Quay, a thriving cultural centre at the heart of a small coastal town in Somerset.
Developed with the goal of improving the social mobility of Watchet, East Quay is a place to socialise and work and above all a creative hub for local people.
The striking concrete building was designed by Invisible Studio founder, architect and TV presenter Piers Taylor, to sit alongside the cliffs of the Triassic coast that surrounds the cultural centre.
Finished with a phenolic ply formwork, the structure has an industrial material palette reflecting the character of the working harbour that it sits upon. The addition of locally sourced sand helps give the fair-faced concrete structure a strong attachment to the geology of the area, as well as a warm and welcoming pink glow.
Just as the pink rocks of the Triassic coast and stone harbour walls shelter the town of Watchet, East Quay does the same for its visitors. Its durable, concrete foundations offer a robustness that delivers a very protective outer exterior from harsh winds.
At the heart of the project was a goal to ensure the structure could stand the test of time and the extreme environment on winter days. Piers says: “Concrete offered us the promise of something robust, durable and easy to maintain – a vital consideration for a small, local organisation.”
Short term, the plinth structure formed the base for lightweight pods and currently houses a gallery, Café and large workshops while the monolithic structure provides the foundations for potential projects to be built upon it. He now hopes that long term, this adaptable creation can have a lifespan of hundreds of years and provide a base for future generations.