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Fusing family history and family futures at Smith’s Dock

15/02/2019

As I sit and watch my much-loved granny drink a warm brew out of her Smith’s Dock branded tea cup I have to pinch myself. You see, my family is from North Shields and I don't think I’ve ever worked on a project with as much personal meaning as Smith’s Dock.

So when in my role at architectural practice, SimpsonHaugh, the opportunity arose to not only masterplan the future of this vast Tyneside regeneration scheme – but also create the Smokehouses waterfront apartment buildings there too – I knew straight away that I had to work on this project.

My family’s well rooted here; meet my mum for five minutes and she’ll tell you about everyone and everything you need to know from what it was like to see Princess Anne launch the Esso Northumbria at the end of the 60s to new restaurants opening up at the Fish Quay.

My mam’s dad, my grandad worked at Smith’s Dock back in the late 60s, and my granny still cherishes great memories of those times and has had an avid interest in my part in the overall project. To be given the once-in-a-career opportunity to fuse my passion for my birthplace and my passion for design is pretty awesome. I’m in awe each time I’m on site, watching something very special spring to life.

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During the research that we undertook at SimpsonHaugh to support our design process for Smokehouses, we came across many old photos of the dock and North Shields. Smith’s Dock, like the other shipyards along the Tyne, was a place full of life. This activity was lost as the yards closed and the river became a neglected asset that we could all make more use of.

To be moving forward with reinvigorating Smith’s Dock as somewhere you can live, work and visit, fills me with real pride. The heritage of the area is fundamental to us at SimpsonHaugh for being able to make this a special place again.

People are often sceptical of whether you can truly bring an area back to life without knocking the soul out of it. That’s not the case here and I for one (well, I’m sure you can count my mam and granny in that mix) can’t wait to see the Smith’s Dock neighbourhood grow.

They say home is where the heart is - and mine’s certainly in North Shields