Ben Hilder, Associate Technical Director
As Associate Technical Director in Landscape Architecture at Arcadis and a Chartered Member of the Landscape Institute, my role has been to design the public realm area of the Rochester Esplanade that is owned by the Rochester Bridge Trust.
This requires an understanding of how people use and move through the space, how they interact with others there, and what they value (experiencing the views across the river and to the bridge) or dislike about it (traffic noise, quality of materials, etc).
The aim is to create an area that has a stronger visual connection to the adjoining parts of Rochester, in terms of its paving and other hard materials, to enable people to pause and take in the views while benefiting from a better sense of separation from the traffic.
Making the right material choices for the Esplanade, and ensuring they work together, is really important to me. The most successful open spaces are those where the materials chosen befit the place; where they have been used simply and as part of a small palette; and where their design and installation means they will be there a long time. I’m looking forward to sharing more information about them.
In fact, I’m looking forward to completion of the whole Esplanade project. You cannot beat the satisfaction of seeing people enjoy using an area of public space that you’ve designed. So once the ribbon has been cut and the dignitaries have moved on, I’d like to be there to see how people begin using this part of the riverside again.
I’m sure visitors will discover more about the bridges, their history and significance – and the role the Rochester Bridge Trust has played in this – than ever before by interacting with their surroundings and stopping to pause and enjoy the space.
Until then, I’m enjoying the challenge of designing somewhere to meet all of the above criteria and that will stand the test of time.
Away from Rochester Esplanade, my partner and I are currently walking the length of the River Thames in stages. Much like the River Medway, there is such a contrast in the quality of the landscape along its length. I hope that the bridges and the Esplanade continue to be areas of this river that people really value.