The Cutty Sark, Greenwich, London

Nicholas Grimshaw Architects
Date Built
Greenwich. London
The Cutty Sark is a clipper ship built on the Clyde in 1869.  Unfortunately, she is a ship that was built at the wrong time. The Suez Canal opened in 1869 cutting voyage times dramatically and reducing the advantage that clipper ships had enjoyed in the voyages around Africa.  Steam powered ships were also marginalizing sailing ships.  However, she did trade between Britain and such destinations as China and Australia carrying tea and wool.  In 1895 she was sold to a Portugeuse company and renamed the Ferreira.  She was sold again in 1922 to a retired sea captain who converted her into a training ship sailing out of Falmouth.  Finally in the 1950s she was moved to Greenwich where she was placed in a drydock and put on public display. 

In 2007, while she was undergoing a major refurbishment, a serious fire broke out on-board and extensive damage was done to the ship.  Fortunately the damage was limited by the fact that during the refurbishment much of the ship had been dismantled and stored elsewhere.  Following the fire, the ship has been restored and included in a new exhibition space designed by the architectural practice of Grimshaw Architects.  This involved raising it up within the dry-dock to allow visitors to walk beneath it, as well as explore inside.

The dry-dock was given a glass covering that made the ship appear as if it were once more riding on the ocean.  Within the dock you will also find a museum space and the usual museum shop and cafe.

The architects say of their design that, "The fully accessible interior will be presented in its original, cargo carrying form, allowing visitors to explore the restored decks and crew accommodation ....

...  Grimshaw’s innovative design proposes the raising of Cutty Sark within the dry berth - providing a new and captivating area for visitors under her revolutionary hull. A new supporting structure cradles the lifted ship’s hull. .....

... In addition to this, an enveloping glass canopy, attached along the ship's waterline, will give year-round protection to visitors in the dry berth. ....

... The resulting air-conditioned, accessible space will become a place for catered events and will be used to articulate the Cutty Sark’s unique story. All works will be complete for HM’s Jubilee 2012 as a gift from the Duke of Edinburgh."

At one end of the Cutty Sark centre you will find the world's largest collection of maritime figureheads assembled in one place.  They were accummulated by Sydney Cumbers of Gravesend.

The new Cutty Sark exhibit has not been without controversy.  The building was nominated for and won the "Carbuncle Cup", an award given by the magazine Building Design for the ugliest building completed in a given year.  BD describe it as, "Grimshaw’s disastrously conceived restoration of the Cutty Sark is winner of this year’s BD Carbuncle Cup, tragically defiling the very thing it sets out to save."  The/Victorian Society's Chris Costello said of it that, "It's a pity that commercial motives were placed above heritage interests. ... The new design has obscured the Cutty Sark's distinctive shape at the quayside. Even the part of the ship we can still see includes an obtrusive lift tower looming over the deck."