A sensitive and sustainable restoration of a Cornish tin mine
Heartlands beats at the centre of the community and Mining World Heritage Site alike. A JCT Standard Building Contract provided the contract solution.
The Heartlands project is the gateway centre to the Cornwall and West Devon Mining Landscape World Heritage Site. It is a mixed-use area, comprising new-build development, conversion and the restoration of an original Cornish tin mine and engine. Located in Pool, West Cornwall, Heartlands is central to the wider Camborne Pool Redruth Urban Regeneration and occupies a substantial area of brownfield land. As a community space, the project is a vibrant and dynamic asset, and a catalyst for growth and redevelopment in the wider area.
Designed by Architect Stride Treglown and built by Midas, the project brief provided a set of specific objectives for Heartlands, in its role as a WHS gateway centre:
- Commemorate the history of Cornish migration
- Celebrate innovative engineering technology
- Explore the development of urban Cornwall.
In building the centre, these themes have been integrated through the provision of facilities for art, education, outreach and business opportunities.
In terms of design, to meet the objectives the project had to adopt a sympathetic approach to the conservation, renovation and additions to the existing fabric. Contemporary design methodology was utilised to create intelligent spacial solutions for the public art and exhibition spaces. An integrated approach between the heritage buildings, exhibition areas, artefacts, park and landscape work was required. This was fully realised through best sustainable practice in the construction and technology used.
With such a large part of the gateway centre being about commemorating Cornish history and celebrating engineering technology, it was vital to incorporate the existing original mining engine and engineering artefacts (some still working) in situ to convey the story of the working mine. In particular, this included the renovation of a single-acting Cornish pumping machine. Additionally, materials key to the region’s historic and cultural identity, as well as central to the mine itself, such as copper, tin and granite have been utilised throughout. The re-use of the historic buildings is paired with the innovative application of sustainable technologies.
In addition to the historic buildings, a number of other new developments have also been constructed to provide a broad range of facilities. These included a public facing shop front, which includes an audio visual archive and sets out the continuity and flow of the visitor attraction. Included within this space are the classroom and seminar room spaces, admin office, foyer, reception and staff/volunteer support spaces.
Heartlands’ key focus is about being able to engage the local community, both in terms of providing creative and business opportunities, a hub for locals, and a landmark visitor destination for tourists. A maintenance workshop and ‘sculpture place’ provide managed rentable accommodation for local artists, including display and exhibition opportunities. A social community space is provided for, along with flexible rental space for linked business and organisations. Public facilities include a visitor’s shop, a café/restaurant/bar, bike hire facility, car parking, and landscaped 6-hectare park, ‘Diaspora Gardens’.
Key historical features:
The centre point of Heartlands is Robinson’s Shaft, an original Cornish tin mine. The history of the construction and development of the mine prior to its current role in the Heartlands project falls into two main phases; its initial development and use between 1900-11, and modernisation into a subsidiary site from 1955-65.
Between 1900-8, Robinson’s Shaft was the principal shaft of the South Crofty Mine. This status was a result of a series of engineering feats, including the construction of a winding engine (1901), installation of a pump engine (1903-08), and the construction of the engine and engine house in tandem (1908). By the completion of the pumping engine in 1908, the shaft could mine to 205 fathoms, and by 1910, 238 fathoms (1,428ft or 435m), higher than the highest point in Cornwall, Brown Willy. Electric power was established at shaft as early as 1910.
By 1967 the Crofty Mine was reconfigured and Robinson’s Shaft was used for lifting men and equipment to the new shaft, Cook’s Shaft, built nearby.
Robinson’s Engine was the original pump engine worked at the site between 1903 and 1955. It was designed by Captain Samuel Grose and built by Sandys Vivian and Co. at the Copperhouse Foundry, one of two major engineering works at Hayle. Robinson’s Engine was stopped for the last time at 1.15pm on 1st May 1955 – the last Cornish engine to work on a Cornish mine.
Heartlands is a model development in its adoption of low-carbon technologies, locally sourced materials, and economic maintenance. Energy consumption is reduced through improved insulation, reducing air permeability and adding draft lobbies. Heartlands makes use of energy efficient systems, including low energy lighting and renewable energy technologies, such as biomass district heating, solar photo-voltaics and a wind turbine.
Buro Happold designed communal rainwater harvesting strategy which used existing below ground storage to store rainwater collected from roofs across the site. This supplements toilet flushing demands, irrigation demands and top-ups for water features. This provides a 60% overall reduction in potable water demands.
Green leases, with sustainable living clauses built in, are implemented in the rental spaces, which support recycling and waste reduction. The residential accommodation and business units have all achieved a BREEAM ‘Excellent’ rating, with the apartments meeting the Level 4 Code for Sustainable Homes.
The use of the JCT Standard Building Contract is ideal to facilitate a project of this nature, where a mixture of design and construction requirements for renovation, new-build and conservation need to be unified under a key set of themes and utilise contemporary, sustainable methodology. The Standard Building Contract allows for both the architect’s vision to be realised, as well as giving flexibility for the contractor to address design issues as they arise, to best meet the overall objectives of the project. In addition, the contract also provides specific sustainability provisions allowing parties to factor this into the project at an early stage.
The next phase of life for Robinson’s Shaft looks set to be the most fruitful of its history so far. Looking at the sympathetic, sensitive and sustainable approach to bringing this project to life, the name Heartlands is exactly what’s on the tin.