The design team of BCA landscape architects and Broadbent Studio following was appointment through a competitive tender process organised by the Environment Directorate of Denbighshire County Council. The challenge that followed, was how we would go about reinventing a tired and overly expansive promenade, that had lost it's reason for being.
Our inspiration, which now seems to be so obvious, is the remarkable natural environment, which in many ways, the heavily developed seaside resort had turned its back on. We looked to the natural processes of beach formation and posed a question - 'Could we create a maritime park made up of a series of naturalistic gardens, each with its own particular theme and activity?' The name we proposed was Drift Parc.
Our preliminary ideas and objectives were exhibited extensively in the town in 2002, before the proposals were developed further to provide the necessary planning approval. The Promenade was divided into five, 58m wide, sheltered Gardens by a series of low walls that follow the lines of the existing beach groynes on to the shore. The walls provide the first degree of shelter, and give each garden a distinct theme and user target. The north and south end of each garden are also enclosed by lower walls, approximately 500mm high, to provide informal sitting, control the ingress of sand from the beach, and provide shelter for the ornamental planting.
Consultation continued in the detail design stage as the Local History Group helped to select the images and memories to be portrayed in the 'Moments in Time' artwork. This community art and photography project made a positive link between young people today and the wonderful photography taken by their relatives enjoying Rhyl beach over past generations. The images were screen printed onto 400mmx250mm ceramic tiles and then set into rebated portions of the concrete ‘community wall’, as part of the theatre garden.
The ‘Finding Time’ Rhyl Discovery Trail was designed in collaboration with Rhyl Museum. Artworks are scattered and inlayed throughout the scheme like flotsam on the beach, each celebrating specific Rhyl events and colourful characters. Designs in ceramic, bronze, stone, concrete, and carved timber were included.
Children from Ysgol Mair Primary School were involved in the design and production of the cast bronze ‘Fish Faces’ feature, in the Water Play Garden. Inclusion of bespoke artwork as an integral part of the design from the outset in order to tell a story of Rhyl’s development as a resort and further enhance “ownership”.
The scheme also incorporated bespoke illuminated timber groynes, bespoke signs distinctive seating, boulders, and also monumental timber and slate beacons which lean defiantly into the wind and follow the geometry of the separate gardens, helping to establish a visual rhythm along the length of the maritime park.
This award-winning seafront park was opened in 2008 with its new paddling pool, play area and mini golf has been popular with both local people and visitors to Rhyl. The amphitheatre and surrounding gardens provide a place to picnic and sunbathe with views across the beach and out to sea.
“It was not architecture that was needed to regenerate the sea front: that could come later. They needed someone who knew how to make thoughtful marks on the land. It needed a sensibility to understand the forms of the sand and the fauna and flora of the seaside – a team who would drink in the knowledge of the local historians about this once remarkable sea-front, and engage businesses and politicians and local schoolchildren, so that all ages and communities could feel a sense of ownership." Tom Leitener RSAW – Touchstone