Dorchester Cornhill

Streets & Spaces

We are leading a team to create a new town square in Cornhill, Dorchester. Once implemented on site, this project will be a playful addition to the town, addressing the needs of the whole community.

Cornhill is the site of the original town water pump and is where the market is traditionally held. The combination of historic mercantile activity and the Roman water source informed this “original community space” and this became our starting point. We have since developed a scheme around the key principles of restoring the pump as a working water source (the pump is still there but has been broken for as long as anybody can remember) and rediscovering the sense of it being a “place to stay” by making it better serve the growing inter-generational communities of Dorchester.

We began our research by making astute observations: Who is currently uses the minimal seating on site? How long do they stay? And what other kinds of other activity are on site at present? A market, café spill out activity but also too much delivery traffic that should not be there. An innovative element of our research was to take a set of foam building blocks on site to playfully engage with the public, testing out new ideas. During this experimentation, several children enjoyed clambering over them whilst their parents stopped to talk to us. We drew the conclusion that children and parents should see the new space as a place to meet and a place to play e.g. on the way home from school. Our emerging designs were later drawn onto the ground in chalk so both the public and the client team could visualise the change at 1:1 scale. Our research results gave us several key elements to play with in terms of the inclusivity outcomes we want to achieve. These include:

– comfortable seating and more of it, especially important for an older generation
– a place to play, especially for younger children
– a place to hang out, especially for teenagers
– a place for local cultural institutions to engage various local communities
– a meeting place that will connect the site to its Roman roots allowing a greater understanding of the town’s history, important for residents and visitors alike
– using water as a focal point to draw a diverse community into a single shared environment
– using the right ergonomics and dimensions to accommodate those less mobile and those using wheelchairs

Our final designs will comprise minimalist forms that will be multipurpose: seating, play and display. On occasion, the largest element can be used as a performance stage or place for public engagement with the museums.