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Chatham Historic Dockyard's Fitted Rigging House wins top RIBA award

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A Grade I-listed building originally used by dockyard workers to make rigging for warships in the 19th century, has been ranked top in three categories of a prestigious architecture awards.

The Fitted Rigging House, a previously rundown workshop in the Historic Dockyard Chatham, won the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) South East Sustainability Award 2021 for its £8.2m preservation project.

The Fitted Rigging House. Picture: Thomas Cogley
The Fitted Rigging House. Picture: Thomas Cogley

The building has been transformed into a flourishing business hub, thanks to a lottery grant.

Chatham Historic Dockyard Trust was also named overall regional winner and Client of the Year.

The renovation of the rigging house has helped secure the future for the trust’s 80-acre site as it is rented out to commercial tenants.

It has also created enhanced facilities for visitors, volunteers and its nationally significant library collection.

Trust chief executive Richard Morsley said: “We are delighted the redevelopment has been recognised. This project exemplifies the dockyard's approach to preserving our unique heritage estate through the creative re-use and adaptation of historic buildings, reinforcing our belief the most sustainable buildings are those which already exist.”

In October 2018, tourism minister Michael Ellis opened the building with trust chairman Admiral Sir Trevor Soar
In October 2018, tourism minister Michael Ellis opened the building with trust chairman Admiral Sir Trevor Soar
Trust chief executive Richard Morsley
Trust chief executive Richard Morsley

Once a dilapidated, empty, post-industrial site, the dockyard is now a thriving, well-restored, world-class heritage visitor attraction.

Mr Morsley added: "Working closely with Baynes and Mitchell Architects and supported by Department for Culture, Media and Sport, National Lottery Heritage Fund, South East Local Enterprise Partnership and a range of other charitable trusts and foundations, has allowed us to transform what was a significant heritage liability into an outstanding, award-winning, asset.

"Through our strategy of ‘preservation through re-use’ we will continue to protect and develop this internationally significant heritage site, supporting our financially self-sustainability whilst enriching the experience of everybody who works, visits, lives and learns here."

The Fitted Rigging House Project has enhanced the visitor experience in the 19th and 20th century galleries (steam, steel and submarines); created a new volunteer centre to greatly improve the work and rest facilities for 300-plus volunteers; and enabled the library and archive to be rehoused in appropriate conditions, improving accessibility for researchers and visitors.

The RIBA Awards have championed and celebrated the best architecture in the UK and around the world for the last 50 years.

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