The 2007 Proposal

Back in 2007, the future of the City of Adelaide looked decidedly grim. Funding for preservation was not forthcoming, the owners of the slipway on which she sat wanted their land back and her custodians, the Scottish Maritime Museum, obtained the consents needed to demolish her. Just her bow was to be saved as a token exhibit.

Dismayed by the prospect of the imminent destruction of the world’s oldest clipper ship the UK’s leading marine consulting engineers Beckett Rankine, working jointly with the UK’s premier structural engineers Buro Happold, put together a proposal to save the hull of The City of Adelaide to avoid her being entirely lost forever.

The Beckett Rankine Buro Happold scheme involved using her upturned hull as a distinctive and unusual, building to form a maritime related building as the centrepiece of a new waterside development. The structure of The City of Adelaide is ideal for such a project as, unlike more modern ships, she has no internal bulkheads. Her upturned hull would provide a cathedral-like exhibition space.

The concept for the proposal grew out of the realisation that there are more historic ships worthy of preservation than the paying public has an appetite to fund. If these worthy vessels are to be saved for future generations then they need to find and be adapted to new uses so that they can pay their way, just like historic buildings have to do. The nation needs only so many museum ships so what else can be done with these ships?

In the case of the City of Adelaide all that remains of her is her hull. It is a very fine and beautiful hull but if it were desired to present it as the ship it once was then the cost would be significantly in excess of £10M, much more if she was to be put afloat again. Inverting the hull and converting it into a building is a radical, even controversial, proposal but, with the right waterside site, it would be a significantly cheaper option.

The purpose in developing and promoting this proposal was principally to show that presenting historic ships as ships was not the only way of preserving them. Adapting what remains of a vessel to a new, financially viable, use can also save what remains of the vessel and, possibly, provide a more secure future for the artefact. Such adaptation is a very much better option than demolition.

To download a pdf copy of the Beckett Rankine Buro Happold proposal, as submitted to the Steering Group advising on the City of Adelaide’s future in 2007, please click here.

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