Cutty Sark / Grimshaw

© Jim Stephenson

Architects: Grimshaw
Location: ,
Client: The Cutty Sark Trust
Partner: Chris Nash
Associate Director: Diane Metcalfe
Project Architects:
 Jorrin Ten-Have, Den Farnworth
Architect: Joe Laslett
Principal: Steve Brown
Photographs: Jim Stephenson

© Jim Stephenson

Cutty Sark epitomises the great age of sail; she is the last surviving tea clipper. Herre markable story is tangible evidence of the centuries long importance of sea-trade to this country and to the growth of London as theworld’s pre-eminent port and trading centre. Built as a tea clipper, where speed to market was critical, it is the combination of sail and hull form which gave Cutty Sarkher edge. The hull shape is defined by the revolutionary 19th century composite iron and timber ship building technique.

A comprehensive programme of conservation began on Cutty 
Sark in 2004, which saw the biggest overhaul of the Grade I listed landmark for 50 years with the ship’s reopening planned to take place in 2009. The project was brought to a dramatic halt when a fire in 2007 swept through the wooden structure, causing extensive damage to the centre of the ship. The disaster caught the public’s interest and initiated a major fund raising campaign, enabling the project not only to be resumed at the end of 2009 but to an enhanced design brief.

© Jim Stephenson

The new design proposed raising the 963 tonnes Cutty Sark three metres within the dry berth. The dry berth was created in the 1950s, and purpose built in mass concrete on a former bomb site to house Cutty Sark when she was brought to Green wich from Shadwell Basin. The ship was floated down the Thames, and manoeuvred into the berth before the end was sealed and the water drained to allow her to reston the berth’s floor. In order to deliver this new conservation solution, within the constraints of the dryberth, it demanded that the new intervention shad to respect, repair and adapt to the original fabric of the ship.

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Cite: "Cutty Sark / Grimshaw" 09 May 2012. ArchDaily. Accessed 23 May 2015. <>
  • Stan Majcherkiewicz

    Very interesting idea! Unfortunately shape of the roof and the overall concept needs more work. A bit disappointing I might say…

  • sdw


    Idea is a good one, but the execution was done cheaply not interms of money but lack of design rigour…

  • Fred

    Wow, what a stinker, the lines of a lovely boat ruined by an extremely clumsy skirt. Looks like a hovercraft.

    • Alan

      I would love to see what you could come up with….

  • Rizky Muzakir

    Not bad, but I prefer a design that solve in preserving the ship. This is a fun design though…

  • Mike Bond

    I think, there were no need to design an extravagant shape, because the ship is beautiful by itself, and the visitors attention should at 85% be dedicated to the ship. They could have made the shell more transparent and light, but that would mean a lack of structural stiffness for such a structure. Thus, a simpler idea, maybe, could have succeeded, a cube, I might say, or a form, as minimal as possible, that retells the lines of the ship. But that’s a different story.
    In overall, I quite like it.