Pritchard Architecture have been part of a visionary project that has seen LCT 7074, the only surviving landing craft (tank) from D-Day, conserved and made part of the public realm on Southsea seafront, creating a unique visitor experience and new cultural landmark in Portsmouth.
As architects for the project, Pritchard Architecture were responsible for the contemporary new canopy and the surrounding landscape which has created a welcoming visitor entrance that connects both physically and materially with the adjacent D-Day Story museum and makes LCT7074 part of the public realm.
A strong rhythm of steel columns that relate to the piers of the historic wall behind, support a sweeping cantilevered canopy, keeping one side of the ship clear of visual distraction and providing clear uninterrupted views of LCT 7074 from Southsea Common. The form of the canopy follows the shape of LCT 7074, starting lower at the bow end of the ship, sweeping over the tank deck before rising sharply over the ship’s bridge and funnel and then dropping back down at the stern. The canopy maintains a simplicity that is sympathetic to its sensitive surroundings while still having a presence that physically relates to the robustness and mass of the ship itself. The design is a marriage of old and new, the patina of age of the ship’s metal work and the texture of the historic brick wall contrasting with the clean lines of modern steelwork and tensile fabric.
The new landscape seamlessly links back to the D-Day Story making LCT 7074 an integral part of the museum. Visitors arrive at the ship via a gentle ramp bounded by grass bunds and enter LCT 7074 via her bow ramp which lowers down and slots into place providing level access when the ship is open to the public. From here they experience the ship and tanks that have been conserved and placed on board, as well as engaging with the new exhibition that portrays the significant and largely overlooked story of Royal Navy landing craft and their crews at D-Day. LCT has been carefully integrated into the public realm of Southsea seafront and with new external lighting and interpretation, the 4.5 million passing visitors to Southsea Common can engage with the ship’s story, at any time of day and night.
The project has secured a sustainable future for this exceptional survivor, completing the conservation that began with salvage in 2014, and its new location and setting provides the ship with an extraordinary context, allowing visitors to properly understand her place in the bigger picture of Operation Neptune.
Part of this remarkable project saw LCT 7074 moved by barge from a ship hall at HMNB Portsmouth, where she had been undergoing conservation work, to her new home on Southsea seafront. Six years after she was salvaged from the docks in Birkenhead, LCT7074 made landfall on Southsea beach in the early hours of 24th August 2020 after many years of restoration. Needing a spring high tide to ensure there was enough draught alongside the seafront, there was a limited window of opportunity to bring her from the Naval Base via barge to the landing site. Strong winds hampered her move and the first attempt was aborted just off Southsea beach the night before. Success prevailed the following night and by late morning she was transported along the seafront on a pair of 96-wheeled self-propelled modular transporters to her final resting place next to the D-Day Story.
The project was made possible thanks to £4.7 million National Lottery support.
Nick Hewitt, Head of Collections and Research, and Project Director for LCT 7074 said,
“From the outset the National Museum of the Royal Navy project team were thrilled by Pritchard Architecture’s graceful, innovative canopy design, which complements the ship beautifully and ties the ship sympathetically into the landscape and built heritage of Southsea Common. Seeing the ship and canopy finally brought together when LCT 7074 arrived in August was a really emotional moment for us all.”