Friday 27 May 2011

Fine Tuning The Turner Contemporary Margate

Reading the comments on yesterdays post I have come to the conclusion that I need to expand on my concerns about aspects of the Turner Contemporary.

Putting to one side people’s feelings about the building, the art on display its potential in terms of regenerating Margate, there are some problems with the finish and design that need to be resolved.

I wrote to the architects about this recently, here is what I said:

In a message dated 03/05/2011 21:00:42 GMT Daylight Time, writes:

Please pass this on to David Chipperfield.

Hi David I have visited The Turner Contemporary in Margate on three occasions now and have some observations about the building that may interest you.

Some damage has occurred to the polished concrete floors see image 1.

There are some problems associated with the external landscaping, this is a bit of a mixed bag which I will try to explain, it seems to be at odds with the quality, both in terms of design and finish, of the building.

What seems to have been intended is a mixed pedestrian and traffic area between the gallery and the harbour, this should be workable as in terms of vehicle movements this area only leads to a small number of parking spaces.

In practice it is assessed via traffic lights from a busy road, so that vehicles enter it at a considerable speed, I sat outside the gallery for about half an hour and witnessed one near miss and one minor traffic accident. 

I assume that you didn’t have a hand in this part of the design as part of the roadway uses permeable slabs that have already become badly stained, see image 2.

There has been some attempt at signage, warning pedestrians that what looks and feels like a footpath in fact is quite a dangerous road, see image 3.

There is a sense of something gone awry in this area, it looks alright until one goes to use it, for example there are seats positioned too low to see over the wall which obscures the view of the harbour.

Please accept that this isn’t a criticism of the gallery, which is impressive.

Images attached.

Best regards Michael  

I didn’t hear anything for some time so I gave them a bit of a nudge  

From: [] 
Sent: 25 May 2011 11:30
To: Info
Subject: Re: The Turner Contemporary in Margate

Please confirm that you received the email below and passed it on as I asked.

If I don’t hear from you today I will assume you aren’t interested and take the issues up with the county council, the two Thanet MPs art council, media etc.  

Best regards Michael

This resulted in the following reply:

In a message dated 25/05/2011 16:30:00 GMT Daylight Time, writes:
Dear Michael, thanks for your input. We are for sure fully aware of the issues.

New parking signage is in the making but we noticed that people tend to ignore the temporary signs put up already. Definitely Thanet needs to improve the parking enforcement and Turner Contemporary are monitoring this.

We fully share your view that clear signage needs to make people aware before they enter the site that there are pedestrians sharing the road.

The stains have been caused by the contractor of the Harbour View scheme and KCC have asked them to execute the required remedial works.

The sea-defense wall and benches in front of our building were outside of our design scope and we agree that this is high and blocks the view.

Regarding the magnesite screed in the building, we are not happy with the swirl marks either, but they luckily occur only in some areas and are overall acceptable we think. There was no option to relay the floor. Also the floors take a long time to dry out and settle and tend to become lighter over time, so what you see now will change over time and wear in.

We appreciate your comments and try to give input where we can to improve the condition.


Holger Mattes
Project Architect

for David Chipperfield Architects
11 York Road
London SE1 7NX
T +44 20 7620 4800
F +44 20 7620 4801

There is a problem here which is it very uncertain if they have passed the email on to David Chiperfield and if they intend to take any action, so I sent them this further email: 

Re: The Turner Contemporary in Margate    MichaelChild to holger.mattes and Alison.Smith - yesterdayMore Details From:  MichaelChild Hide Add to: To Do, Calendar  To:  holger.mattes CC:  Alison.Smith BCC:Date:Thu, 26 May 2011 14:06
Hello Holger I am familiar your work and I guess you would be aware of the problems.

In the short-term traffic coming straight off busy traffic lights is likely to cause a fatality and adverse publicity for all involved. I think a bit more than signage is needed, perhaps some sort of physical traffic calming is needed urgently. 

I would say parking enforcement comes a long way down the line, unless you were one of the official visitors at the opening who received a fine notification for parking on the harbour arm.

The height of the wall relates to Wallingfords FRA and isn’t something that can be changed it is just that the benches are sited wrongly.

My understanding of magnesite screed is that it is a polymer and it should be possible to remove the scratches by using an abrasive, I wasn’t suggesting that the whole floor is relaid.

Anyway I will take the issues up in the hope that the situation can be improved in some way.

Can you please confirm that my email was passed on to David Chipperfield as essentially it’s his name that is on the design when it comes to public perception?  

Best regards Michael

While I really don’t think these problems should be down to me, basically I think something as important as the Turner Contemporary should have someone looking after these issues.

I suppose ultimately the customer is us the taxpayer, so it is down to us to make a fuss about the things that are wrong with what we have paid for. 

I am also not very happy about dealing with people who only reply promptly to some sort of timed warning, needless to say I haven’t had any reply to the email I sent to them yesterday.  

I know it is probably petty of me and I am certain that in the high flying world of international architecture emails from a shop assistant probably don’t seem very important, but I don’t like it when I write to one person and another one replies on their behalf, without even telling me if they have passed my correspondence to the person it was intended for.  


  1. "Thanet needs to improve the parking enforcement"

    Hahahahaha! Good luck with that.

  2. Since the building is owned and maintained by KCC (us) and they also are responsible for the roads and the footpaths I think you need to write to the council leader and all three Margate KCC councillors.
    I believe they budget for £100,000 p.a. for maintenance on top of the million plus grants they give to the gallery organisation.

  3. Oh get a life you lot!!

  4. I am sure their time should be better spent being allowed to get on and do the work rather than replying to endless petty e-mails which wastes everyone's time....

    Along with the cheap journalism of endless Freedom of Information Request.

  5. As a KCC council tax payer I want to see my money spent wisely. Why should I, and the other KCC taxpayers, pick up the tab for poor design. If a builder built an extension on your house and after a couple of weeks you noticed that the flooring he had recommended was showing signs of wear you wouldn't just go "never mind, I'll just put up with it until it wears away and then I'll buy a new floor". No, you go "Mr Builder please come round and fix this defective floor at your own expense". It's called warranty; exactly what Michael is suggesting should happen with the problems at TC.

  6. To anonymous at 16:04

    Hello again,

    Why do you think that TDC are to busy and important to talk to members of the public?

    You still fail to understand, or effect not to understand, that the public does not exist to serve the council; rather TDC exists to serve the public. It really is that simple.

    Any council member who considers himself too busy or too important to talk to the public is pompous and probably a martinet.

    [For him also read her]

    While we are at it, why are your posts always so gratuitously rude. Do you object to the fact that right or wrong Michael actually cares. Presumably, you do not care?

  7. 16.14 I think you have a misunderstanding of both council officers and me in this instance, I think I can best illustrate this with the last email I received from the council, below. Officers often instigate my enquires, in this instance a TDC press officer noticed that part of a series of emails I had published hadn’t reached her due to problem with TDC email.

    Original Message-----
    From: Sue McGonigal
    Sent: Fri, 27 May 2011 17:54
    Subject: Re: Whose Who?

    your comments are welcome - we are currently looking at how we can
    improve our web site and our communications generally, so I will make
    sure to pass your email on to the relevant officers.


    Sue McGonigal
    Chief Executive Designate and Chief Financial Officer
    Thanet District Council
    Council Offices, Cecil Street, Margate, Thanet CT9 1XZ

  8. Builders dont have a good track record as far as public works are concerned. Only 2 years the OFT investigated 199 such contracts and 103 building companies were found guilty of "cover pricing" offences. (they colluded for one company to put in a very high price so that other companies could put in a lower but over the top tender).
    The builder of the TC was one of the 103 companies and was fined £544,000 for its part.
    KCC still went ahead with this company knowing their record.
    So it is very important for members of the public to keep such builders under scutiny.

  9. Some general observations on the comments here.

    The Margate county councillors are not my county councillors in the first instance I think this is really something for Margate people to take up with their county councillors.

    With the various problems I am not really sure who is to blame for what, builders, architects, council, gallery management, I suspect it’s a bit of a mixed bag.

    The business with the traffic going at fairly high speed onto what looks and feels like a pavement, seems to be a design fault at some level. I think there is a high chance of a serious accident because of this and this is the main reason I am making a fuss.

    The damage to the gallery floor looks like it has been caused by using the wrong cleaning equipment, possibly due to some breakdown in communication between the architects and the gallery management. I don’t really know but it doesn’t look like a construction fault to me. I am not going to go into the technicalities of polymer floors here.

    I am afraid that the architects apparently being most concerned about parking restrictions has annoyed me considerably, I would say there is a high probability of a poem or a drawing.

  10. The marks on the floor make an interesting and mysterious image hinting at circles coalescing into infinite null points.They should be framed and celebrated as part of a conceptural art initiative.

  11. Well said John. Michael performs a valuable service and time wouldn't be wasted if the politicians he directed his questions to didn't either ignore him or try and feed him duff information. OK, he doesn't always get it right (the legality of live exports) but he seems to know a great deal about the inner goings-on around this Island. Every Council needs a Micheal, just as every Councillor needs to remember Caesar's Slave.

  12. Thinking about it 1604 is probably a Councillor

  13. You should hear what they say about Michael in the council offices. There is such a thing as crying 'Wolf' and he takes it to an art form.

    Whilst accepting he may occassionally do some good, mainly he is just a nuisance wasting officers time and all of our money.

  14. 1119 I refer you to Johns comment earlier. You who work for TDC are all our servants and occasionally it would be nice if you behaved like servants. You work for me, not the other way round, and don't you ever forget it.

  15. John, we might be able to serve you and all the people better if some individuals did not waste so much of our time. However, I accept it is your choice, but don't critice when there are not enough hours in the day.

  16. 1339 might try looking at the private sector to see how they cope with not-enough-hours-in-the-day syndrome; also known as excuse making

  17. To anonymous at 13:39,

    If you are to be be believed, Michael has upset the council. Good, that means he must be getting through to you at last.

    My entire working life was spent in Government Service at home and abroad. You purport to be working for TDC.You do not say whether as a councillor or official. If it is the latter and if I were your line manager, I would give you a swift kick up the backside for being so stupid as to talk to the public in those terms. You come across as a pompous twit.

    If you are too busy to attend to the informed enquiries from Michael then I suggest that you are not up to the job.

    If on the other hand you are a councillor then you would lose my vote. This is assuming you were able find the courage to identify yourself on this blog.

    On the other hand you could be a Troll. You know, one of those lonely misfits that haunts blogs and forums with the intent to stir up anger.

    Which are you then: an under performing council officer; a rather pompous Councillor; or an irritating Troll?

  18. Thank you again John and well said. When will these people start to realise where the dog ends and the tail starts?
    My personal view is that this is a Councillor, possibly a fairly aggressive one from Michael's side of Ramsgate

  19. Come now, John, when did anyone in the CS or local givernment ever get the sack. They just go sick at the first hint of a hearing, claim a work stress related illness and finish up being given the services from someone from PPPA or HR to assist them in their claim for Injury Related Compensation.

  20. Well said, Anon, and as typified by the Shoesmith woman. How badly can you cock up and still come out smelling of roses, expensive ones at that. I wouldn't brag too much about being in local government if I was you, John.

  21. Just like everyone, you've got the Shoesmith thing wrong. All the Court of Appeal has done is rule that her dismisal was unfair. She has the same employment rights as everyone else, and that includes the right to a proper disciplinary hearing. That she didn't get. If Ed Ballsup had merely stated that she would have to face the full disciplinary process during the TV interview then none of this would have happened but, like most politicians, he is woefully ignorant of the laws that he and others like him put in place and chose to sack her on TV. If he had done this to Baby P's case worker (sacked he or she on the TV without a proper disciplinary process)then the Court of Appeal would doubtless have come to the same conclusion.
    That said, she is a particularly odious specimen and a classic example of a council Jobsworth. If she does get any compensation then it should come from the pocket of the man who was so ignorant of employment law - Ed Ballsup.

  22. To anonymous at 17:01,

    I do wish you would read what I say before flying your prejudices. I did not say that I was in Local Government. I am not now nor have I ever been in local government. Furthermore, for you to say that I was bragging is a gratuitous slur.

    Turning to your uniformed assessment of the Shoesmith affair: FedUpWithPoliticians has corrected your error.

    Anyway, what does it matter. I suspect that you are nothing more than a troll.

  23. I have just had a read of the comments and suppose I should say that I don’t think I have cried wolf.

    I still maintain that a bylaw saying that animals are not allowed in the harbour and port area would have to repealed before animal exports can start.

    Alternatively if national and European law overrides local bylaws then it overrides all local bylaws meaning that local bylaws have no meaning i.e the law is the same everywhere.

    I was wrong about one part of the cliff being dangerous and only up to a point and this was because the council and the council’s consulting engineers were working under the assumption that what was a solid cast concrete panel, was blockwork.

    The council based a £1m project repairing this structure on it being blockwork, the work was done paid for by the council and signed off on the assumption it was blockwork.

    The council sent the HSE the wrong plans saying it was blockwork, the HSE passed the plans on to me without noticing, not much I can do about that one. Now I know it isn’t blockwork I know undermining it isn’t dangerous.

    At the moment though the council has promised me on several occasions that they will put a vehicle weight restriction on the top of the cliff, there is no question that the present situation is very dangerous without one, the officers don’t disagree with me on this score. Still no weight limit, what do you think will happen if it collapses becase of this?

    As far as civil servants and politicians go, I know quite a few one way or another and have always found them to be courteous and helpful people, I think it unlikely that 11.19 is one, as the whole ethic of democratic governments is based around serving the people.

    However I should point out that this post is about problems with a new public building, I think just about all new buildings have problems especially one off designs like the TC. As you can see from the post the architect agrees with me that the problems exist, but doesn’t seem to have a harmonised and holistic approach to solving them. In fact he seems to have muddled priorities and be far more concerned about people contravening parking restrictions, than the traffic flow design problem there that causes vehicles to flow into a pedestrian area at high speed.

    Obviously he agrees the problem exists, suppose for example a child is killed because of this and if you have any doubt about the likelihood of this happening just sit outside the TC when it is busy for half an hour, where does that leave us? To my mind the other arguments are inconsequential in comparison.

  24. Michael,

    I think you are correct about 11:19. He is just a troll.

  25. Still think 1604 is one of our more aggressive Councillors with whom Michael has crossed swords before

  26. Maybe, but he is still prat.

  27. Michael, I'm sure you can confirm that we have never corresponded on the subject of vehicles outside Turner before. It is gratifying, although extremely disappointing, therefore that what you have written is exactly what I have been saying since I first saw the new landscaping plans 2 years ago.

    As the operator of Margate Harbour Arm, I have sent many emails of concern to the Project Team and landscape architect. Since the beginning I have been saying that the shared space is dangerous, the layout of the surface and drain are misleading, and the signage is inadequate. I have frequently voiced a particular concern that there is no tactile paving where people step into the space in front of The Droit House.

    No amendments were ever made to the plans on the basis of my concerns. The response I received was that the surface is designed to (and this is an exact quote) 'create uncertainty in the mind of the driver'. The theory is that if they don't know where they're going they'll go there slowly. Worrying isn't it?

  28. Fiona, you are on a nice little earner whilst Michael is driven by his mission. Neither of you offers a truly unbiased view.

  29. Hi Fiona, I can confirm that we haven’t discussed the issue, as the building’s architects have confirmed that they are aware of the problems too I am hoping for some sort of resolution before there is a traffic accident. As I said this is a Margate issue and really outside of my sphere, the Ramsgate issues are enough for any free time I have available and the Margate county councillors and MP don’t have the same obligations to me as they would to a Margate trader or resident, have you tried taking the issues up with them?

    Traffic layouts designed to reduce accidents by confusing drivers are something I haven’t heard of before, lets hope it doesn’t become the norm, or perhaps it already has.

    My email address is on the sidebar if you want to forward me any of the correspondence.

    11.27 it doesn’t appear that our view differs from the architect’s view, if you have a view on the issue perhaps you would like to share it.

  30. Considering TDC's long track record of ineptitude, alleged corruption and the like, I find it reassuring that those within the council feel it necessary to attack LM of B (Lord Michael of Bookshopshire).

    I wouldn't trust any politician of any flavour, at any level, on any matter, large or small. Ever.

    I'm only a lurker, but I read with interest LM of B's posts and have been doing so for some time. He's clearly hitting the right notes (and nerves), judging by the flak he gets from people who would normally not even bother themselves replying (and only do so because of his significant following).

    I fail to see what on earth ulterior motive Michael could have for expending considering amounts of time and energy fighting for various local causes. Were it not for so-called time wasters, nothing would ever happen. TDC would continue to ride roughshod over all and sundry. But I guess there are plenty with an interesting in ensuring things stay that way.

  31. To anonymous at 11:27

    Clear off, troll.

  32. Turning to this idea of ensuring road safety by confusing the driver: I have seen this in practice and it works.

    From 1986 to 1990 I lived and worked in Bombay. This city has many wide roads and avenues built by the British. The traffic was heavy. The traffic drove mainly on the left. It included cars, lorries, buses, motorbikes, scooters hand carts, ox carts, horse carts, elephants and loose cows. The traffic never let up and there were no pedestrian crossings.

    When I first arrived I had no idea how to cross these roads. Then it was explained to me. All you had to do was just walk slowly into the road and everyone would avoid you. It worked well.

    Similarly with parking, you more or or less left your car wherever you wished. Drivers doubled and tripled parked.

    Should you arrive to find your car blocked then all you had to do was consult the man sitting on the pavement - there were always men sitting on the pavement day and night - he would tell you where you could find the driver of the car which was obstructing yours. Or you could bung him a couple of rupees and he would fetch the driver for you. The driver would apologise and move his car to let you out.

    It all worked well. No one got angry or annoyed. Everyone was polite. There were no parking attendants, or penalty notices. It was all very civilised.

    None of this would work in Margate.

  33. John Holyer, what a strange idea of freedom of speech you have when only your views can be aired. Those you do not like get the foxtrot oscar treatment.

    Does not say much for your intellect or your case. Maybe with all your time abroad in government service, pushing around the natives, you lost all notion of good manners.

  34. 11.27. People rarely have unbiased views but those who know me understand that my motivation for all the things I do in Margate is not purely business-oriented.

    Michael, yes I did raise it with the KCC councillors and never received any replies. Roger Gale also got involved and rattled a couple of cages but in the end the design remained unchanged.

    I know that there are examples of shared surfaces in European cities and also in the UK, and they can work. However, I think the vast expanse of unrestricted open space around the Turner sends the wrong message out to drivers, who tend to look too far ahead of their bumper. I also think it doesn't work because it is directly off a fast main road and there is no obvious traffic calming or signage.


Comments, since I started writing this blog in 2007 the way the internet works has changed a lot, comments and dialogue here were once viable in an open and anonymous sense. Now if you comment here I will only allow the comment if it seems to make sense and be related to what the post is about. I link the majority of my posts to the main local Facebook groups and to my Facebook account, “Michael Child” I guess the main Ramsgate Facebook group is We Love Ramsgate. For the most part the comments and dialogue related to the posts here goes on there. As for the rest of it, well this blog handles images better than Facebook, which is why I don’t post directly to my Facebook account, although if I take a lot of photos I am so lazy that I paste them directly from my camera card to my bookshop website and put a link on this blog.