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Architecture (MA)

Tom Gardner

Tom Gardner is a multiple award-winning illustrator, digital artist and designer. He is currently an Architectural Assistant based in London at the RCA. After graduating with a First Class Bachelors degree at the University of Liverpool, he worked for three years, working in multiple practices in Manchester, Glasgow, and Edinburgh. Tom has also worked freelance as a visualisation artist and design consultant with clientele ranging from the United States to the Faroe Islands.

He is interested in social politics and urban planning, working on academic projects covering issues surrounding gentrification, globalisation and notopia. He also specialises in hand-drawn visualisations, illustrations and digital paintings that communicate strong narratives. 

His work has won numerous competitions & awards, with features in major architectural publications such as Archisource, Archdaily, and Architizer. His Architectural Illustrations have been featured in International exhibitions, such as the "Exposición NADA QUE NO SEA BELLO" in Oviedo, and "We Aren't A Gallery" in London.

Photography of the Bata Factory from the surrounding context

The industrial revolution has inadvertently triggered the mass extinction of other species, spread pollution worldwide and triggered a climatic change. The choice is whether or not human societies have a design strategy that works ecologically and can be sustained within the ecosystem’s regenerative capacity.

Bata-Ville and the Bata factory are a product of the industrial revolution. It permanently altered the human relationship with the earth; the move from agriculture to industry produced a “mechanistic” view of the world, superseding the idea of organic nature.

"Factories in a Garden : Gardens in a Factory" Proposes the reuse of the Bata Factory in East Tilbury. Converting it into an Ecological Campus that provides much-needed facilities for the local community, clubs and institutions. Through teaching sustainable living strategies, and remediation techniques exploring nature, and working collaboratively, the campus will generate a broader learning community.

Bata-Ville is a former agricultural site surrounded by diverse ecologies. Therefore, it is a rich environment for learning the environmental impacts of human behaviour, understanding one’s locality, and appreciating and remediating the natural environment.


The Ecological Campus

The Campus has three 5-storey factory buildings that provide learning facilities, sustainable living, and improved social infrastructure. The 1-storey buildings, currently derelict, are converted into gardens (for both production and leisure) that serve as a pedagogical tool.

The site removes barriers to increase the porosity of the site, encouraging greater integration within its surrounding contexts and new paths are created to encourage public engagement with the Campus and the surrounding ecologies.

Masterplan - Phytoremediation and Path Hierarchy
Masterplan - Phytoremediation and Path Hierarchy

Masterplan - Path Hierarchy

The primary paths provide access to public infrastructure, such as the town’s new Civic Square/ garden and public paths to explore ecologies beyond the factory.

Secondary paths cut through the North/South axis, creating better visibility and access throughout the site whilst encouraging phytoremediation planting strategies that can maximise available sunlight. Creating a landscape where the natural takes priority over the built.

Tertiary paths are formed over time through desire lines. Where the habits of the site’s users dictate the circulation on site (opposing pre-planned & prescribed routes). Reflecting the needs of its users, space is permitted by nature.          

ProgrammeIllustrated Diagram Depicting the Overall Programme of the Campus & how each five-storey relates to their surrounding context

Programme - Primary Factory Buildings

Each five-storey building has a particular focus on facilitating education and supplying social infrastructure to the community which are:

- Bata-Ville Centre -  Provides a dedicated home for Bata Heritage Centre, a historical hub that celebrates the town’s history intending to attract a broader community to the town as a tourist attraction. Due to the lacking social infrastructure in the town, this building provides a dedicated town hall, archive, library and kindergarten, which is essential to facilitate the town’s future growth.

Communal Living Centre - Teaches a more sustainable way of life, accommodating short-to-medium-term residences for students or regional organisations, clubs, and families for leisure weekends to explore the local ecology. Specifically, the Communal Living Centre will prioritise working collaboratively with local higher and further education institutions, providing space for emerging or existing curriculums.

Innovation Centre -  Developing on what already exists, it will facilitate forms of research to study the surrounding ecologies, monitor the effects of the remediation of the landscape, and re-introduce wildlife. Formal classes, lectures and talks will take place, with innovations showcased. As per its original function, small startup businesses with a sustainable agenda can take residence in a series of open-plan and collaborative offices.

Campus Programme
Campus Programme

Programme - Campus Gardens

Civic Garden - The ground level is open to the public, facilitating the “Civic Garden” which, according to Irene Scauber’s Parklife, will supersede the Civic Square, providing a space for the community to reconnect, re-discover its past identity, and begin to visualise a new one. Like the Bata Town Centre, it serves the public and local community, strengthening the town’s social infrastructure by providing a dedicated space for mass gatherings and public events.

Greenhouse - Two of the one-storey factory buildings are converted into water-harvesting greenhouses, emulating the traditional “Paradise Gardens”. The buildings work in conjunction with the Communal Living Building as it acts as a source of food to be supplied to the “Communal Kitchens” whilst teaching its users the duty of care and requirements for the cultivation of vegetation.

Walled Garden - The remainder of the semi-derelict One-storey buildings are converted into “walled gardens” which form the public park aspect of the Campus. Built surfaces are revealed and removed, to facilitate the re-introduction of nature for natural wildlife, and phytoremediation plants to remove the past industrial pollutants. The walled Gardens work in conjunction with the Innovation Centre providing sites for controlled study, experimentation and reintroduction of nature and wildlife.

demonstrating the moments of knowledge exchanges and facilitating various curriculum
Illustration - The Education Agenda

Education Agenda - Introduction

The Campus is designed to work alongside existing institutions (such as the University of Essex and South Essex College) and local authorities (Forest school of East Tilbury Primary school) to facilitate learning at various levels. 

It includes a Forest School curriculum for early education, such as building little dens, capturing and observing insects, exploring outdoors, collecting samples from local water/small ponds, and planting and picking fruit and vegetables. 

For older students (college/university), there are opportunities for nature watching, monitoring, surveying, re-landscaping, Phytoremediation, removing built surfaces, replacing with nature, monitoring soil progress, and introducing wildlife to the Campus.

 The Campus also encourages the participation of the wider public and residents through day visits/short stays, local interest and youth groups, community-based projects (re-landscaping, Phytoremediation), and park walks/exploration. 

The architectural interventions promote learning through individual curiosity and engagement, allowing people to learn at their own pace

Moments of Knowledge Exchanges within the Communal Living Centre
Moments of Knowledge Exchanges within the Communal Living Centre
Facilitating Curriculum within the Campus Landscaping
Facilitating Curriculum within the Campus Landscape
Illustrated Visual - Erosion of the Grid
Illustrated Visual - Erosion of the Grid

Landscape Strategy

The Bata Grid system was used on the site for optimum efficiency and flexibility. However, it cannot integrate with its surroundings, which was challenging. 

To combat this, I proposed the “erosion of the grid” through landscape reorientation to maximise daylighting and create less prescriptive paths. 

The landscaping incorporates Phytoremediation as a pedagogical tool, using different plants to remediate soil based on contaminants.

The occupants will develop and monitor the landscape, studying its effects on local wildlife. The site’s natural civic square improves social infrastructure and encourages community networks, creating a new identity while re-engaging with the past.

(Left) Phytoremediation zoning (right) Landscape 15 years later
(Left) Phytoremediation zoning (right) Landscape 15 years later

Phytoremediation Strategy

Each plant can degrade different toxins and pollutants. Therefore, specific plants need to be introduced. As part of the landscape strategy, I have identified the three key zones of pollutants and toxins in the factory based on its current infrastructure and context, as well as its past industry. These are pesticides (from surrounding agriculture), asbestos (a large underground service tunnel), and heavy metals/ petroleum (past and current industry, as well as abandoned oil barrels).

To inform the landscape strategy and landscape architecture the proposal will include (but will not be limited to) the following plants for their respecrtive zones.    

Excavated Cut of the Communal Living Centre
Illustrated Visual - Excavated Cut of the Communal Living Centre

Communal Living Centre

The building’s grid was altered to promote interactions with the surrounding ecology, blurring boundaries between inside and outside. The communal kitchen encourages various forms of cooking and eating, promoting socialising throughout the year.

This is crucial in establishing a network of people with a common goal for a more sustainable way of living. Different forms of socialising, cooking and eating are encouraged, becoming increasingly externalised by warmer weather, promoting the integration of human behaviours with the surrounding ecology.

The Baffle Louvres control the thermal comfort and permeability of the space. At ground level, it acts as a continuous threshold, encouraging the externalisation of activities and non-prescriptiveness of human movement whilst also providing privacy during hours or seasons when required (security, maintenance etc.).

The upper levels facilitate collaborative living. It provides temporary residences encouraging different collaborative interactions to study, learn and exchange information. 

For example, “conversation pits” refer to the social interactions surrounding a firepit, the “personal greenhouse” that encourages the care and cultivation of personal plants, and the observation block, a breakout space that provides views of the surrounding ecology.

The perimeter consists of short-term accommodation with private study spaces. 

Communal Living Centre (Left) Floor Plans, (Right)  Detail Section
Communal Living Centre (Left) Floor Plans, (Right) Detail Section

Floor Plans & Detail Section

Floor Plans:

The ground floor consists of communal dining, which will provide users and visitors of the campus a gathering point to eat, converse and exchange knowledge. Building a stronger sustainability-focused community in the process. Due to the implementation of the “Inverse Communal Kitchen” cooking is focused at the centre of the building with dining areas expanding outwards to encourage the typical “human way of life” to be integrated with nature.

The upper floors contain a collaborative study central courtyard with perimeter accommodation. To maximise natural light, the shutters of each room are to be open unless the occupant requires privacy.


Due to the nature of the building, consisting of a single layer of brick for the façade, it is poor thermally. Therefore, the building contains an internal second skin to rectify this, creating a thermal envelope for increased climatic comfort. In contrast to the industrial exterior, the interior is lined with sustainable insulated timber panels to create a visually warm and comforting interior whilst maintaining climatic comfort. 

A series of key architectural interventions within the communal living building
Key Architectural Interventions
Perspective section

Perspective Section & Conclusion

The perspective section demonstrates the individual elements that consist of the Campus working collectively as well as demonstrating how the built and natural interact with each other from a user’s perspective.

The biggest challenge of the project was to offset the regimented and mechanistic feel of the site which is the by-product of Modernist and Fordist Architectural projects of the past, especially within industry as (at the time) the regard for nature was superseded by the requirement of maximum efficiency.

Originally throughout the design process, I explored extending the “Bata Grid” which, in my opinion, worsened the relationship between the built and the natural, where the built is beginning to consume more of the pre-existing nature.

The final design proposal harnesses Phytoremediation and the natural expansion of nature as part of the spatial strategy in conjunction with the acknowledgement that human behaviours (such as the creation desire paths over time) will strike a balance between humans and nature (as well as the built and natural) which is mutually beneficial. 

I believe this balance has been best communicated in the following perspective section.

As a brief conclusion, this project has informed me a lot on how I want to pursue my professional practice as an architect. It has created a template for a new approach to architecture where I will design with the intention of breaking down barriers of the built and the natural and create projects which will intentionally shape the way its users interact with nature.

Before we can sustainably change the way we act as humans, we must first be aware and appreciate the nature that surrounds us.

Perspective Section
Perspective Section