Designmap develops Crossness sewage visitor centre

Designmap is developing the visitor experience at the Victorian-era Crossness Sewage Treatment Works Complex, London SE2, as part of a wider £3m restoration which is set to open to the public next year.

The development will see new visitor facilities added to the complex, including a permanent exhibition, a retail space, a café and an education suite, as well as the restoration of the engines, pumps, auxiliary plant, decorative cast iron work, buildings and services.

The project is expected to turn the complex into a registered museum, with the possible titles of the Museum of Sanitation Engineering or the Crossness Industrial Museum.

The exhibition, which goes under the working title The Great Stink, is a high priority for the regeneration of the Victorian complex, with its steam engine house and historic Grade I-listed buildings, says Crossness Engines Trust director Mike Jones.

‘It will be what attracts visitors. There’s a really good story here, from what happens on site to how it relates to waste management today and ecological issues,’ says Jones. The exhibition will also illustrate the modern treatment technology used by the neighbouring Thames Water plant.

Although Crossness has been gathering funding to create a visitor experience since 2003, Designmap was only brought on board to the exhibition side of the project in the middle of last year, following a three-way official tender process.

The London consultancy will also overhaul the Crossness website as part of its contract, which is worth around £40 000, says Jones. The total budget for the redevelopment of the boiler house and website is around £340 000.

Designmap director Daniel Sutton explains that the brief includes considerations such as integrating the library into the exhibition space, and incorporating the sanitation and waste-disposal issues facing developing countries into the story.

‘The exhibition is to be movable, to enable the central space to be used for corporate events,’ says Sutton. ‘As a response to this, we are developing industrial-like flexible units on castors, which will house cased objects, graphics and models as well as digital and physical interactives.’

‘We see the brand as an essential tool with which to capture peoples’ imagination. This is not just a story about Victorian engineering. The ramifications are much wider and are resonant today. The brand will have to work hard to communicate this to the widest possible audience,’ he adds.

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