In January 2017 Tynwald Members approved the scheme to reconstruct Douglas Promenade and in September 2018 work commenced that involved a new design for the southern section of the Promenade to improve traffic flow, junctions and footpaths. It was also agreed to create a cultural area around the Villa Marina and Gaiety in line with the town centre regeneration and Douglas Masterplan. The Department of Infrastructure chose Hardscape as one of their collaborative partners to fulfil the redevelopment alongside local contractors’ Auldyn Construction Ltd.
The northern end of the Promenade aimed to be redeveloped on a simple, like-for-like basis. The scheme reflected the design principles agreed by Tynwald Members and features newly paved and seating areas with artwork embellishments and twin horse tram tracks in the centre of the road from Strathallan to Castle Mona Avenue incorporating switching to a single track on the seaward side of the road terminating at Peveril Square, near the Sea Terminal.
The Isle of Man’s newly crowned capital city has a 1.6m long crescent shaped beach front and Promenade. The oldest section, known as Harris Promenade, was constructed in 1868, with the remaining three sections, Loch, Queens and Central Promenades being constructed in 1874, 1889 and 1896 respectively.
The last major construction work took place on Loch Promenade in the 1930’s when additional beach front was reclaimed to create the Marine Gardens, commonly and locally known as the ‘Sunken Gardens’. One of the unique features along the length of the Promenade is a horse drawn tram system, originally constructed in 1875 and still operating to this day.
The aged condition of the highway construction had started to show signs of failure and the Isle of Man Government’s then Department of Transport (now the Department of Infrastructure) began preparing plans in 2006 to fully reconstruct the highway and give the whole promenade a much-needed revamp.
The regeneration of the promenade would be the Departments single largest investment in highway infrastructure. Alongside the civil engineering aspect of fully reconstructing the highway, footways and highway drainage, all statutory service infrastructure was replaced and future proofed to minimise any unnecessary further construction work along the promenade for many years to come.
The main focal points were to be Loch and Harris Promenade. These two promenades lie adjacent to the newly regenerated town centre shopping area and formed part of the Governments masterplan for developing the lower part of Douglas.
It was decided to use high quality surface finish paving materials, supplied by Hardscape, to the footways on these promenades, complementing and continuing the granite walkway through the town centre, including Castle Street, Market Hill and Duke Street, again, all supplied by Hardscape, cumulating in the creation of a ‘Cultural Area’ on Harris Promenade. This location fronts the capitals Gaiety Theatre and Villa Marina complex, as well as one of the largest hotels along the seafront.
A major part of creating this new public open space was to introduce unique features including sculptured planter units, a sweeping seated area with impact-etched granite imagery depicting historical references to the Theatre and buildings along the promenade. This artwork was produced and created by Hardscape’s sister company, IP Surfaces Ltd.
Competition and Process
The MyProm Project Team wanted to encourage participation from local artists and ran a competition in 2019 to submit designs to be mounted on 4 large granite bollards at 2 new pedestrian crossings, the winner of which would design the artwork panels to be placed on the Gateway Markers defining the entrance to Loch Promenade and Harris Promenade.
The standard of entries was excellent, and the winner was local artist Anna Wilson. Anna designed 6 individual panels, inspired by Celtic knots which are a widely recognisable design and have links to Archibald Knox and ancient stone crosses found on the Island. Wanting to give recognition to some key features of the Isle of Man, Anna’s work offers 6 themes which include fairytales/folklore, sport, Douglas Promenade, road racing, nature, and the sea so that all the designs would have a similar design language and could be recognised as one project. The panels were initially drawn by hand, finalised in Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator, then scanned and CNC enhanced before being etched onto black granite at IP Surfaces factory.
Prior to this process, members of the IOM Project Team visited IP Surfaces facilities on the mainland in order to sample the materials used and to see first-hand, the sophisticated production techniques involved in producing the panels, bollards and artwork for the entire project.
Each panel of the Douglas Promenade regeneration project has a unique design that represents a particular theme. The Fairytale/Folklore Panel depicts well-known folklore tales and elements, including the Fynoderee, mermaids, the Buggane, robins, the Moddey Dhoo, and witches. The Sport Panel celebrates the Isle of Man’s active sporting programme with designs that incorporate features from various disciplines such as football, hockey, swimming, gymnastics, cycling, rugby, and motocross.
The Road Racing Panel is dedicated to the Isle of Man’s famous road races and shows a journey to success with celebratory champagne, winding roads, motorcycle chains, Laurel wreath, and a spinning motorcycle tyre. The Douglas Promenade Panel celebrates the area’s long and interesting history with elements such as the War Memorial, the barbed wire from the internment camp, the horse trams, and the sunken gardens.
The Nature Panel celebrates the Island’s natural beauty and biodiversity with designs that incorporate the peregrine falcon and Raven, Manx oak trees, Ragwort, Cinnabar moths, Rowan trees, seals, and basking sharks. The Sea Panel depicts the Island’s strong history and links with the sea from Vikings to today’s fishing fleets, with designs that include sealife, the Viking boat and shield, RNLI recognition, and The Tower of Refuge.
The Poem Path features a beautiful poem, When Childher Plays by Rev. T. E. Brown, with illustrations that capture the innocence and simple pleasures of life on the Isle of Man. The Music Path depicts the notes of the Manx National Anthem and takes the follower through the Cultural Area and finishes at a bespoke bronze statue “The Dancers” created especially for the location by another local artist, John Mulvey. The Film Path showcases the history of Douglas Promenade from the 1800s up to 2020 through photographs chosen from the Manx Museum’s collection.
The Isle of Man Planter Seat is shaped to represent the Isle of Man and is planted with heather and local shrubs to represent the source of inspiration. The decorative strips that come from the planter to “feed” the Cultural Area suggest Nature, the Celtic, Viking, and English cultures. Shaped to represent the Isle of Man, the planter-bench stands on the locally sourced black limestone paving, supplied by Pooil Vaaish. Planted with heather and local shrubs, it represents the source from which inspiration springs. The bench is made from eight individually shaped pieces of granite and has individual artwork strips etched into the granite along with a polished outline of the Isle of Man.
Hard landscape materials supplied by Hardscape with artwork produced by IP Surfaces
- Midnight Black granite copings – sawn all sides, polished tops with impact-etched photographs.
- Kobra granite planter-bench – sawn all sides, sandblasted faces with polished map of the Island on the top face. Polished bands running from top to bottom with sandblasted designs.
- Kobra granite marker post bollards – sawn all sides, sandblasted to exposed faces with polished patterns and lettering.
- Two inlaid Midnight Black granite panels with polished and sandblasted detail and stainless-steel inlays.
- Kobra, Kobra Green, Classic, Royal White, Barleycorn and Violet Pearl granite walkway paving.