Issue 8 November 2006

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Design Excellence North Kent – DENK and Beyond

The Kent Architecture Centre working in conjunction with Kent County Council has recently completed the Design Excellence in North Kent programme (DENK).

DENK was set up to support the delivery of the Sustainable Communities Plan. It helped underpin the development process within Thames Gateway Kent by providing a range of design services to help North Kent become a place of innovative design where the highest environmental standards could take place.

Many large-scale developments are coming on stream in North Kent. Apart from a few notable exceptions, North Kent was not renowned for the quality of its development. This was illustrated by only a few schemes winning design competitions or receiving national plaudits. Local authorities were keen to address this.

The Kent Architecture Centre was originally established to promote design awareness and it has developed a national reputation in this field. The DENK programme provided opportunities to respond to local priorities.

Amongst DENK’s key achievements are the appointment of Sir Terry Farrell as Design Champion for Medway and the creation of a panel of 20 design enablers to provide design review advice and give greater exposure to local designers.

As part of DENK, Kent Architecture Centre ran a competition for designs for two new bridges forming part of Rochester Riverside. The competition was won by Birds Portchmouth Russum Architects, with a design inspired by the landscape of the existing tidal creeks and Rochester’s maritime tradition. At each creek, two slender decks extend across the salt marsh, one for cyclists and the other for pedestrians. Each deck is supported by a series of carbon fibre stems, representing a thicket of reeds that sway in the wind.

DENK has proved to be diverse and valuable, involving many participants through a series of practical design interventions and support services. DENK was an ambitious programme which has raised the profile of design in North Kent and has been successful in making people collaborate more effectively and think about the importance of good design. The programme demonstrated what can be achieved in a short space of time, and the Kent Architecture Centre is now developing a Kent Design Future Programme for the whole of Kent that aims to build on what has already been started.

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