Boathouse 4

Extensive refurbishment brings new life to naval boathouse

Built during WWII for the restoration of boats, Boathouse 4 is an excellent example of a twentieth-century naval boathouse, with a saw-tooth roof, corrugated iron facades and a reinforced concrete and steel framed interior. It is the only boathouse known to have been constructed in a home dockyard during the rapid re-armament period of the 1930s, and in the context of its location within H.M. Naval Base in Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, demonstrates the evolution of dockyard buildings since the 17th century. The owners, Portsmouth Naval Base Property Trust, wanted to realise its potential and promote its historic value as a timber boatbuilding enterprise, upholding teaching skills that would otherwise be lost.

Following a successful HLF Stage 1 bid and invited competition Walters & Cohen was appointed in December 2012. Our design for a multi-purpose facility reuses the existing building, whose prominent location makes it an important gateway to the dockyard. The building houses a boatbuilding academy, exhibition space and restaurant, making it a pleasant destination for visitors. The restaurant, on a new mezzanine level, overlooks the main space and provides views to Gosport, making the most of the site and location.

We have taken advantage of and retained the industrial feel of the building, resolving issues of safety and noise by enclosing certain areas of the boatbuilding academy, and leaving as much on view as possible for a quality visitor experience.

In 2016 the project won the Portsmouth Society's Design Award for Best Reuse, and was shortlisted for the AJ Retrofit Award as well as awards from RIBA South, the BCI, WAF and the Civic Trust. In March 2017 the building received a commemorative visit from HRH The Princess Royal.


2017Civic Trust Awards – regional finalist

2016RIBA South Awards – shortlisted

2016British Construction Industry Awards, Building Project of the Year (up to £10m) – shortlisted

2016AJ Retrofit Awards, Cultural Buildings (Visitor Centres, Libraries and Museums) – shortlisted

2016WAF Awards, Old and New Category – shortlisted

2016British Construction Industry Awards, Community Engagement Award – shortlisted

2016British Construction Industry Awards, Award for Natural and Cultural Heritage – shortlisted

2016Portsmouth Society Design Awards – Best Reuse


ClientPortsmouth Naval Base Property Trust

CompletionSept 2015

Area3,400 m2

QSFocus Consultants

Structural engineerJane Wernick Associates

Building ServicesMax Fordham LLP


Project managerFocus Consultants

Exhibition designReal Studios

Funding PartnerHeritage Lottery Fund

Acoustics MaxFordham LLP

Fire SafetyFusion Fire

Heritage consultantConservation Plus