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Architecture (MA)

Lucy Stubbs

Lucy is a multidisciplinary designer, currently based in London. After completing her BA in Architecture at the Manchester School of Architecture with a focus on building re-use, she worked as an architectural assistant at StudioAP until joining the RCA. She has also gained experience as a marketing designer at the design start-up Visualist, and as a heritage brickwork volunteer with the Canal and River Trust.

Her first-year design project in ADS7 explored the idea of atmospheric carbon dioxide removal through structures made from a reactive rock extracted during mining processes in Northern Canada. This year, her History & Theory essay explored the policies which intertwine the heritage architecture sector, and the possibilities of traditional building techniques and new technology learning from each other.

Lucy’s work engages with themes of the cultural and ecological conservation, continuing in this year’s thesis project with ADS0. Echoes & Sediments proposes a methodology of material experimentation to serve as a form of documenting the erosion of a coastal landscape, and human knowledge and traditions along with it. Thematically her work investigates threats to culture and land, and how embracing flux in nature and the climate can offer new opportunities for design – in which the past, future, material, immaterial, human and non-human have equal representation.

Photo of Lucy and Grandfather on the beach at Whitstable, 1998

Echoes & Sediments

Visualising Cycles - of growth, of erosion, of destruction 

A 350-mile stretch of coastline borders the county of Kent, with the sea forming an integral part in the identity of people who - like me - call it home. My understanding of this wild landscape was shaped by the familiarity and other-ness of the changing coastline. During more recent visits the shoreline has still reminded me of home, but the land is slowly being swallowed by the encroaching sea, and also fundamentally eroding. Eroding in space, eroding in industry, and eroding in tradition. Every time I return, I have a feeling of a loss which has not yet occurred.

The project formulates a material language which is used to create composite columns (as sea level gauges) and a pier (as a tidal room). The familiar structural typology of the pier utilises a grid of columns which materially engage with the bio-chemical processes of a tidal landscape, and anticipate towards the chemical and physical reactions which are constantly occurring at the transient border of watery environments. The proposal creates a collection of tidal rooms which interact in diverse ways with the land and water in the re-imagined future of a harbour, in which flood defences are not designed to push the sea away, but instead embrace ways to consciously design structures which negotiate between space.

The research questions which drive Echoes & Sediments are two-fold:

How could reducing friction with climatic changes offer opportunities for coastal typologies and landscapes, rather than resisting environmental flux?

Can a material language evolve to visually narrate these changes of a site, both past, present, and future?

Photo of Lucy and Grandfather on the beach at Whitstable, 1998
51.3597° N, 1.0214° E My Grandad & I on Whitstable Beach, 1998. The shelves of my childhood bedroom are littered with pieces of sea glass and dried up creatures, collected by myself and my family from the shoreline of England's eastern coast where I was born. At the time of this photograph I was one year old, surrounded by my family on a trip to the beach at Whitstable.
Whitstable beach
Throughout a life of periodic visits to the nearby coastal town of Whitstable, I have viewed the changing shoreline with the feeling of both someone who belongs but also as an outsider to the local fishermen, who would include their designated area of ocean as an extension of the town itself.
Whitstable beach
Whitstable can be used as a proxy to the wider condition of coastal settlements along the Kentish Coast. Here the sight of scrapped or salvaged boats, nets, chains, and processing buildings commonly punctuate the shoreline, speaking to the melted boundaries between nature and industry.

The Fire

On May 26 2022 a fire broke out in a cockle processing shed neighbouring the Whitstable Fish Market on the main thoroughfare of Whitstable harbour. This space is not only central to the community of the town, but is also a symbolic structure of the industry from which the economic and cultural identity has developed from.

Fire drone picture
Fire damage picture

The Flood

The human instinct to anthropomorphise is commonly projected onto the ocean within seaside communities, and these traditions and stories merge with reality in the collective consciousness of these settlements, resulting in an understanding of the environment which straddles the rational and the fantastical. Significant numbers of these communities are predicted to be affected by rising sea levels in the up coming decades, including dramatic flood statistics for South East of England - where Kent is located.

The themes of the fire and the flood are intrinsically linked - both rendering Whitstable from a landscape of familiarity into something of loss. The two themes possess an element of alchemy, which are presented through material experiments used to transform existing substances with chemical processes, such as oxidation, erosion, melting, boiling, and burning.

Flood Map 1
Flood Map 2
Potential Flooding of the Kent Coast by 2050 (data from
Flood Map 3
Harbour Map
The location of the burnt fish market (highlighted in red) is directly in the area of coastline of Whitstable which is predicted to become flooded from rising sea levels. The tidal room structure is positioned on this site of destruction, in the middle of the flooded landscape of Whitstable, and visualises on a material level with the aspect of memory, ruins, and future archaeology.
Abstract landscape model close up
The memories which an organism possesses are part of their internal dialogue, but can also be influenced by external factors. The idea of a landscape, as seen throughout a lifetime and across generations, can become permeated with real and imagined characteristics which come together to create an abstracted view. This can create a different set of value systems, with some substances, elements, and objects holding significance which would appear worthless or uninteresting to others.
Collection of rocks
Collection I
Eroding Whitstable
Abstract landscape model
Coastal Environment IThe collection and display of the assembled objects sourced from Whitstable serve to create an installative environment, which presents my personal gathering of material as well as the interplay between the organic and in-organic elements of the coastline and fishing industry.
photogrammetry of beach objects and landscapes
The process of replicating objects which already exist is one which anticipates their future as relics. The increasing availability of photogrammetry technology gives rise to an uncertainty of material reality; and these digital records destabilise ways of experiencing materiality.
The collection of these materials questions the histories embedded in certain objects or substances, and the stories and value systems that are created when these materials are isolated and re-contextualised. By archiving objects from the site using photogrammetry, a digital record is created of substances and relics of industry. These elements interact with one another through the medium of video to create the landscape of Whitstable, and both the hidden and visible impact of man in the environment.
Net making
Net WeavingEarly experiments into man-made objects interacting with nature, and lost traditions, began with the practice of hand knotting fishing nets. Narratives about craft and expertise play a role in community identity, and reflect a concern that such skills are passed on to future generations.
Cyanotype 1
Tidal Print I The process of cyanotype printing using sea water collected from Whitstable created 'photographs' of the tide, and stands to document an environment in specific conditions.
Cyanotype 2
Tidal Print IIThe wave pattern can be seen in the marks left in the exposing ink, and are reminiscent of both the incoming water of the shoreline, but also of landmasses themselves.
oyster trestles on whitstable beach
Oyster trestles in the Whitstable inter-tidal zone
oyster trestle landscape
Coastal Environment II
oyster trestle landscape
Formed in the shape of oyster farming apparatus, this collection of found objects is presented in proximity to each other in order to create an abstraction of the coastal landscape. The structure itself is altered by the objects placed upon it, swaying under their weight, which captures and communicates a tidal energy.

Sedimentary Columns

The column is a symbol in classical architecture of permanence and power, which these structures aim to contest with their inclusion of materials which in some instances have been pre-stressed with processes such as burning, melting, rusting, and crystallising. There is a link between the ecological anxiety around both materials and environments that are viewed as impermanent – and the sedimentary columns represent this idea of systems in cycles of growth and decline.

Forged metal 1
Reactivity Detail I
Forged metal 2
Reactivity Detail II
Forged metal 3
Reactivity Detail III
sedimentary columns
The sedimentary columns consist of materials which have experienced extreme conditions, such as burning and eroding, as well as local building traditions such as tabby concrete made of oyster shells and bonded salt. These columns brings the intertwined nature of the salt, water, and energy of the harbour into focus through these material studies and redefine the underneath of a pier structure as a place to inhabit.
tabby concrete
Tabby Concrete A local building technique, which is made from stones and crushed shells cast as part of an aggregate mix, and commonly used along the coast.
Harbour Pebbledash
Harbour Pebbledash Another local building technique of the south east - an extreme version of pebble-dash - which decorates bricks and tiles with locally-sourced materials.
steel section
Forged Steel Section
Eroded Rock Section
Eroded Rock Section
Tabby Concrete Section
Tabby Concrete Section
Burnt Timber Section
Burnt Timber Section
Collection of column designs
Collaging all of these elements, along with burnt timber, aggregate from the shore, and waste products are utilised and combined to create these pillars which portray reactions but will also further interact with the sea water as flooding occurs, accumulating markings similar to sea level gauges. The materials used speak inherently to the processes of erosion and weathering, and visibly display the effects of destruction from rising sea levels.
Render 1
Render 2
Render 3
Render 4
Render 5
Render 6

The ground following the fire is damaged, and has been re-designed using a mix of hard and soft landscaping to create temporary natural pools depending on the tide levels. These areas re-think uses for flooded land, including fresh water reserves for the outdoor fish market. The structure is flexibly designed, with a mezzanine which can also function as a oyster trestle when the sea eventually reaches a consistently high level that the inter-tidal fish farms shift inwards towards the current harbour zone.

The variation in column density and terrain creates small tidal rooms within the larger context of the inter-tidal area which the structure occupies. The excavation of water retention ponds departs from modern ideas of comfort and hydrological building norms, which beside its utilitarian objectives of water retention and flood protection, form a interconnected assemblage of floodplain biome.