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Building Opinions: Robert Nemeth on Dungeness

Robert Nemeth

Nature is key to the attractiveness to visitors of Dungeness in Kent. The peninsula does hold the designations of NNR, SPA, SAC and SSSI after all. The power stations – one in operation, the other defunct – are of interest to many as well, as are the lighthouses and miniature railway.
I went principally for the architecture.


As Britain’s only desert (according to the Met Office), Dungeness really is a fascinating place. It is characterised by an expanse of shingle, a scattering of windswept plants and a peppering of low detached buildings. It does have similarities with Shoreham Beach which also features plants such as rock samphire and sea kale. More interestingly, railway carriage homes were once common on Shoreham Beach and still are at Dungeness.


The most famous home at Dungeness is perhaps Prospect Cottage, a traditional tarred fisherman’s house, which belonged to the late film director and gay rights activist Derek Jarman. Its shingle garden is of national importance. As a beekeeper myself, I was wondering what the short-haired bumblebee (Bombus subterraneus) makes of it following its reintroduction to Dungeness after extinction in this country.


There are around one hundred homes at Dungeness and the rules governing change are strict. New buildings suit the landscape perfectly and offer a refreshing change to the white-rendered rubbish that is springing up indiscriminately across Brighton and Hove.

Robert Nemeth
The Pobble House by architect Guy Holloway is a curiosity and features weathered larch alongside corten steel mesh. The Black Rubber House by Simon Conder Associates is a rebuilt fisherman’s cottage with larch plywood and rubber (a modern take on tar). The Shingle House by NORD appears as a row of tarred gabled sheds – and is actually tarred this time.


Many of the houses are rentable holiday homes, which makes the prospect of visiting even more attractive.
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