'Powder Barges' Inspire Creative Canalside Workspace

'Renaissance' and its sister vessel 'Judith' are inspired by the last wooden sailing barge built in London in 1931.
The bright interior space onboard the newbuilds provides a thoroughly contemporary working environment in an on the water setting.
'Renaissance' is seen under build at the Manor Marine yard in Portland, Dorset.
The third office barge, 'Belle', is of Humber Keel style and was extensively refurbished at MSO Marine on the Grand Union Canal in Brentford assisted by AC Marine.

The London Olympic Games in 2012 draw ever closer and British Waterways, the public corporation which manages more than 2,200 miles of canals and rivers in England, Scotland and Wales, is actively engaged with a range of regeneration partners in a number of East London projects to breathe new life into the area' s waterways.

These include habitat and access enhancements, new visitor moorings, trip boats, and a working wharf for moving waste and recyclates off the roads and onto barges.One of the first projects to come to fruition is the arrival of three stylish new commercial barges at Hale Wharf on the River Lee Navigation in North London, representing an important step to the regeneration of Tottenham’s riverside. It is hoped that the colourful and striking new barges will help revive commercial activity in an area less than four miles by river from the 2012 Olympic Park. The site is within an area zoned for growth and development around the overland transport hub and Victoria Line underground at Tottenham Hale, which provide a direct link to Central London. Planned community facilities include a new primary school, a hotel and a health centre as well as public open spaces. With substantial investment and the added impetus of the London Olympic Games in close proximity, Tottenham's riverside is set to join other successful waterways destinations in the capital such as London Docklands and Little Venice.

British Waterways London commissioned naval architect Ian Darley to produce a design for two barges inspired by the style of a traditional River Lee powder barge, the last of which, 'Lady of the Lea', was built in 1931 and carried cargos such as gunpowder between Waltham Abbey and Woolwich Arsenal.

The 25m LOA ‘Renaissance’ and 'Judith' were built by Manor Marine in Portland, and the former has been finished in the original black and red livery of the MoD barges. They were delivered by water along the coast from Dorset into the Thames and up the River Lee. A third barge, the ‘Belle’, is a Humber Keel style of vessel extensively refurbished at MSO Marine on the Grand Union Canal in Brentford, assisted by AC Marine.

British Waterways’ regeneration projects manager Tav Kazmi said, 'Part of a plan to breathe new life into the area’s waterway, these striking new vessels provide a distinctive and modern working environment in the heart of one of the Capital’s principal growth areas with excellent transport links. Ideal for small to medium sized enterprises, the floating work spaces would suit businesses from the creative, cultural and high tech industries.'

The £1m scheme is backed and funded by the European Regional Development Fund, the London Development Agency as well as British Waterways. The chief executive of North London Business, Gary Ince said, ‘We support this exciting new development which provides SMEs (small and medium enterprises) in North London’s thriving creative and cultural industries sector with start-up and move-on studio work space. It also begins to create what promises to be a stunning riverside business location kick-starting the regeneration of Tottenham whilst bringing the river back into commercial use’.

Although constructed in steel for a 21st century purpose, Ian Darley’s design for Renaissance and Judith has captured much of the character of a classic wooden sailing barge, complete with masts, spars, rigging, furled sails, lee boards and deck equipment.

The contract to build the barges was awarded to Manor Marine, which achieved a high standard of steelwork to reinforce the ‘feel’ of a wooden structure, including scroll work on the transom of the ‘Judith’ and ornate work on the bulwarks of both barges. Dummy halyard winches were constructed and the mechanisms of old crab type hand winches were used to fabricate the anchor windlasses. All of these design features are provided for what are in fact modern 1,000 sq/ft open plan offices fitted with kitchens, toilets including disabled provision, and wheelchair access.

Internally aft there is a small galley (kitchenette) from Howdens and the toilet facilities with equipment and fittings from Armitage Shanks. Entry is from a stainless steel gate fitted with video entry system and GARC International commercial post boxes, then onto the Intermarine supplied pontoon through an oak panelled door in the ship side. This is the main concession necessary from the original barge concept to provide access to the office accommodation. Inside, the entrance landing and steps down to the office space are polished oak from Burbidge and include the wheelchair lift supplied by Public Access.

The open plan office space is both light and spacious, finished in matt white with polished oak trim to allow flexibility of fit-out by tenants. Natural lighting is by double glazed skylights and dark tinted flush fitting ship side windows by Houdini Marine. To minimize obstructions on the bulkheads, a reverse cycle chilled water air conditioning and heating system was designed and supplied by Nauticool, with all ducting, pipework and air handlers concealed behind the linings. The chiller units along with electrical control panels, water heaters and other related equipment are installed in a plant room at the stern.

All utilities come from the shore and include 400/3/50 power, fresh water, and telecoms. The latter provides high speed broadband onboard and serves remote monitored RedCare fire and intruder alarms by Chubb. Utility and mooring connections are designed to be easily disconnected, allowing the vessels to be moved for maintenance or relocated. All toilets and washbasins empty through Sanibest macerator units to an onboard waste tank, which ha an automatic submersible pump to discharge all waste to the shore main drainage system.

TS Rigging was awarded the contract to install the rigging and sails, the design of which is adapted from traditional sailing barges, including deadeyes on the shrouds and wooden halyard blocks. James Lawrence Sailmakers supplied a suite of furled foresails, mainsails and mizzens, complete with halyard winch covers. The stainless steel wire rope terminations have been disguised and rigging screws hidden inside the deadeye lashings. Other traditional deck fittings include Davey polished brass cowl ventilators and a carved hardwood tiller.

The ‘Work on Water’ concept for the barges set a challenge for Ian Darley, who developed a successful design relationship with British Waterways. This resulted in an outward appearance inspired by traditional working barges while providing a modern working environment. British Waterways believes the scheme sets a new benchmark for future projects of this kind, providing work spaces afloat that offer a desirable business location in the heart of London’s Lee Valley.

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