Royal William Yard Staircase

Gillespie Yunnie Architects
Plymouth, 2013

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The Stairway to Devon 

Richard Downer (website)     Download Original

  • The Stairway to Devon    
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Data

  • Begun: Feb 2013
  • Completed: Mar 2013
  • Floor area: 40m2
  • Sector: Public realm
  • Total cost: £250,000
  • Funding: Grants from Natural England, South West Coast Path (Eric Wallis Memorial Fund) & Friends of Devils Point
  • Tender date: Nov 2012
  • Procurement: JCT standard building contract with traditional procurement route
  • Address: Royal William Yard, Stonehouse, Plymouth, PL1 3QQ, United Kingdom

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Architectural staircase connecting the coastal path at Western king with the Royal William Yard, Plymouth

The stair links the defensive western end of the Royal William Yard to the South West Coast path above the site. The Royal William Yard was designed by Sir John Rennie to supply the entire Royal Navy Fleet with beer, rum, ships biscuits and cured meat. Built between 1826 and 1831 it was used continually by the Navy until the 1990’s when it closed and has since been subject to one of the largest regeneration programmes in the South West.

The Grade I Listed Royal William Yard has always been a dead end due to it’s naturally defensive nature and peninsular location, so the staircase linking the west end of the Yard with the open green space of the peninsular above has always been a key part of the regeneration masterplan, to allow residents to access the park and historic battlements at the top of the high retaining wall, and allow walkers to continue along the Coast Path route via a dramatic piece of architecture.

From the Yard, the stair is a dark solid mass, snug against the historic retaining wall, and the journey, hidden by the high solid sides, is only apparent as you begin to climb the stair, with the concealed glass viewing platform and panoramic views over the Tamar Estuary across to Cornwall being concealed until the last minute. From the park above, you first have to find the entrance, housed within a sunken ruin of an old military store. A steel ‘portal’ is cut through the huge wall marking the start of the journey, and your first view opens up before you, as you descend down the cantilevered upper flight. At night it changes again, using concealed LED ribbon lights beneath the handrail to wash the entire inner surfaces with an ever changing river of colour, a bit of fun, and brightness in the otherwise dark, hard context of the old military site, and reminiscent of seaside promenades across the country.