top of page






Analysis of the emergence of a public space and its resilience in a digital Age


This research project by Sam Causer and Carlos Maria Romero was commissioned by the University of Kent School of Architecture (KSA), with funding from the Communities and Culture Network+ (CCN+) whose central aim is to critically understand the digital transformation of communities and culture through practice-based research, community engagement, collaborative projects and empirical research. The CCN+ works with communities to ensure deep and lasting impact, to design needful projects and to better understand the wider social, economic and political issues at stake for the future.


Within this structure and building up from the legacy of our 2015 project ‘Blushing Pavilion’, a temporary artistic intervention and exhibition in a Margate seaside shelter, this document presents in full extent the content needed to start understanding the historic seafront landscape in Margate, Kent, stretching 5km along the coast from the railway station to Botany Bay, as a digital-age public space, and re-imagining the existing C19th and early C20th seaside shelters along it as beacons/online activators of community engagement and attraction.


The document also offers initial ideas into what could be done to promote such a narrative and the milestones for the possible development of a strategy to make Margate Coastal Park a reality.  The authors suggest with a base of initial evidence that Margate Coastal Park could potentially foster community cohesion, cultural pride and well-being for a vibrant and diverse community. The analysis also suggests the importance of protecting and fostering Margate’s newly formed creative sector through resilience-building projects as a strategy to maintain the regeneration of the town without gentrifying. Various findings of this analysis suggest too that Margate Coastal Park could contribute to build a sustainable future through the consolidation of the town as a fair and socially progressive cultural destination independent from fair-weather tourism.


This analysis puts into practice the knowledge gained during the regeneration which has taken place over the past decade and that was examined in Architectural Digital Activism In Margate and Cliftonville; a first commission by KSA in the frame of CCN+ in which we researched the Margate-based, community-lead, digitally supported activism of that period. This report can be downloaded HERE.


To realise the premises of this analysis we also reviewed and considered a number of previous and current reports and efforts to develop integral masterplans/design visions and guidelines for Margate and its seafront including very recent appraisal documents for the designation of Conservation Areas; we interacted closely with Margate Neighbourhood Plan Forum; we talked and consulted several community leaders and key persons, landscape designers and environmental, heritage and tourism officers; we commissioned external historical research and undertook our own including the production of various analytical maps; we commissioned the 3D scanning of the shelters and their surroundings, and we appointed a studio with experience in socially-engaged digital strategies, the creation of community organisations, heritage activism and cultural tourism.


You will find all of these topics listed in the sections at the top of this page. By clicking on the icons you will come to a summarised version of their content, from where you can download the full chapters by clicking on the cloud icons.  You can also download the full analysis document by clicking the cloud icon at the top of this page. The full document can be downloaded HERE


We now formed a not-for-profit organisation called Margate Coastal Park Promotion Group, whose first activity in support of the park was a weekend-long Celebration 'A Clifftop Wander' from 9th - 11th September 2016, featuring artistic interventions, exhibitions and performances, generously supported by Arts Council England.


The event is part of the national Heritage Open Days initiative, and part of the Margate Festival


We also have a Facebook Group here:



We commissioned Kent Gardens Trust, a well-respected historical gardens research body recognised by Historic England and comprised of volunteer researchers to explore and report on the history of the development of the area and principle of the Margate Coastal Park.


Their findings are based on primary sources, such as the minutes of the Margate Borough Council, held in the Kent Archive at Maidstone.


The relevant sections from the minutes, extracted by KGT are available to download by clicking HERE.




This section comprises a series of overlaid historic maps of the coastal area of Margate.  The area shown is limited to that which developed in response to the presence of the Coastal Park, itself delineated by a black line.


The choice of what area to include in these maps is in flux, and is subject to further scrutiny and involvement of stakeholders.  There is an argument that the ‘coastal’ area of Margate could be limited to the strong vehicular route defined by Hawley Street / Northdown Road, with largely ‘coastal’ area to the north/west and ‘inland’ areas to the south/east, but we felt this would exclude too much of the areas around the ‘inland’ parks of Dane Park and Northdown Park, which were made public around the same time as the Coastal Park, and therefore relevant to its presence. Therefore the areas to the north/west of these two  large ‘inland’ parks are also included.  On the westward side we also included the area to the north of the railway line, and enough of the context around the station to make sense of the urban grain.


How to define the boundaries of the Coastal Park itself is also complex. If taken forward as a designated Park & Garden, the area defined by this boundary will receive increased scrutiny of decision making.


Broadly speaking, the area stretches from the point of arrival for the majority of visitors - the Railway Station and/or Arlington House Car Park in the west - to Botany Bay in the east.


We currently define the boundary as follows:

The maps are shown in forwards and reverse chronological loop to show change over time and include:


Current Aerial View, pieced together from Google Maps believed to be circa 2013, followed by those available online through Digimaps from: 2013, 1980s, 1970s, 1960s, 1950s, 1940s, 1900s, 1890s, 1870s, 1852, 1821.  Some are of low quality, such as the 1960s, 70s and 80s, but this is the maximum quality available using the Digimaps service.


The maps are all presented in alignment on each page, to the same scale, with north upwards.  The convention of orienting to the north appears to have settled locally by the early/mid C19th, though it was the predominant form in Europe as early as the C16th.  

We have produced this map sequence in different formats to allow different kinds of user interaction:

North - The mean low tide line; defining the extent of the area people can explore on foot. The fact that this boundary is temporal, based on the ebb and flow of the tide is significant.


East - Approximately the boundary of the historic borough of Margate.  This boundary can be seen to have moved regularly over the past century, as many of the maps shows a slightly different position.  We have chosen to fix the boundary for the purposes of this stage of the project not according to this political line, but to where the geography of Botany Bay meets Kingsgate Bay (Broadstairs), which also aligns with the current extent of the urban growth of the town.


South - The building facades fronting the park, following the predominant urban limits, which broadly date - from west to east - from the Eighteenth, Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries.


West - The prominent ‘book-end’ of the Nayland Rock Hotel that terminates the western vista from Margate Main Sands. This boundary does not accord to a political ward boundary, the line is based instead of the apparent architectural/urban end of this stretch of coast. Beyond this point to the west is arguably part of the town and growth of Westgate, which could be the subject of a separate or extended study.

We have produced this map sequence in different formats to allow different kinds of user interaction:


  1. 1)A Gif which fades through the sequence in pre-determined order, shown above;

  2. 2)A PDF sequence in the document that can be downloaded by clicking the cloud icon above

  3. 3)An exhibition of the maps in physical form planned for late Summer 2016 in the Palm Bay Shelter.

  4. 4)A layered Photoshop file which can be used in a number of ways, including the ability to zoom in close on any particular site and click on/off through layers of time to see historic change. This document is large (900 meg) and can be downloaded by following this link: HERE. Note that you will need Adobe Photoshop to open and view layers in the file.


The whole section can be downloaded by clicking on the cloud icon above.



The maps in this section are thematically analytical, with the following themes:


- Landmarks

- Open Spaces

- Building Uses (shown above as a Gif)

- Circulation


Each theme has two maps - one from the 1950s and one from 2013, with the exception of the Landmark map where development and change over time are simply represented in different colours.


The aim of these maps is to be able to compare change over the past 60 years, across the critical period of what may be called the post-war decline of the British Seaside. We are able to see from this analysis how the architecture, urban form and public realm of the area has changed in response to dramatic changes in society and ‘use’ of the town. 

We cannot claim that the maps are completely accurate - they are presented more as a work in progress, a methodology for capturing and representing a type of change, rather than currently 100% accurate. They are intended as a tool for sharing, updating and understanding.  It is the nature of time and change that the map intended to show a current situation will be out-dated in a very short time. We envisage that these maps will be most useful in a more interactive form, whereby many users can access and update the maps in the way that Wikipedia can be updated, or information added to a Google map. 


The whole section can be downloaded by clicking on the cloud icon above.




The lists contained within this section are the start of what aim to be a definitive, accessible and update-able list of all of the organisations who have a digital presence in the park, or one of the streets which terminates in the park and can therefore be deemed to have a direct relationship with it.  The aim is that this list will become publicly editable to develop over time and be searchable according to different criteria such as location, or business type, etc.


The whole section can be downloaded by clicking on the cloud icon above.

The list is split into two categories:


1.4.1) ‘Online Communities’. These are defined as non-commercial organisations whose presence and form of communication is significantly online.  They fall into a wide variety of types, including The Walpole Bay Swimmers, for example, an open group of people who regularly meet to swim together at the Walpole Bay Tidal Pool. They use mainly Facebook as a medium of communication and for sharing videos, photographs and comments, which has helped galvanise a group of people who might otherwise be hard to gather together in the same place at the same time, and giving them a place to share publicly their experiences.  The map above identifies the geographic reach, or 'area of interest' for all online community organisations we identified in the lists.


1.4.2) ‘Businesses with Online Presence’.

These are commercial organisations who operate in the area and who use the web to directly trade or promote their business. 




A map in this section identifies the location of the series of public shelters, constructed mainly at the end of the C19th and early C20th all around the Thanet coastline, focussing here only those in the Coastal Park area.  Historic maps indicate that there used to be over fifty of these shelters around the Thanet coast, built to encourage exploration and bring health and well-being to visitors and the local population.


Of the twelve original shelters we have identified from historic maps and photographs within the Margate Coastal Park area, only seven now remain.  We note those which exist now in black, numbered from west to east, and those which are missing - in red - from east back to west.


The following pages look at the history and current condition of each of the remaining shelters in turn.


We have given significant attention to the shelters as many seem to be in imminent danger of collapse, and yet have played such an important part in the development and use of the public space over the last 150 years.


The shelters also give poetic articulation to the position between the ‘civilised’  nature of town to the south and the ‘wild’ sea to the north; between the sunrise in the east and the sunset in the west;  between sun and shade, rain and dry, wind and calm.  The four-sided, pitched roof form of the larger shelters, and the raw ‘elemental’ form of construction recall Abbe Laugier’s ‘Primitive Hut’ described in his 1755 Essay on Architecture, thought to be the ideal ‘base’ form of architecture from which all others emerged.  The wide and low form is also reminiscent of the ‘Prarie style’ homes designed in Chicago by American architect Frank Lloyd Wright, at the same time as the Coastal Park shelters were constructed.  


The whole section can be downloaded by clicking on the cloud icon above.




This section identifies a number of key reports and studies made on the area in recent years.  We provide a short description of each report and a web link to download it, where available.


The whole section can be downloaded by clicking on the cloud icon above.




We engaged On Point Studio to develop an online and digital strategy to increase awareness of and engagement with the principle of Margate Coastal Park, and to share and build the online resource.


On Point Studio, founded by Louise Oldfield, is based in Margate with a background and expertise in marketing, digital communication, community engagement, activism and local knowledge (planning, history, community groups, legislation).


On Point Studio specialises in cultural projects that evolve place changing, heritage regeneration (particularly coastal), cultural tourism and brand development.


The whole section can be downloaded by clicking on the cloud icon above.


Photographs by Studio Sam Causer

Maps by Google Maps

Aerial photos by Haeckels?

Historic photograph from Margate Local History website/SEAS archive?

3-D scan in Point Cloud Data, recorded in March 2016 by Julien Soosaipillai, of the University of Kent School of Architecture.

bottom of page