A little black building clearly yet harmoniously signals the entrance to the Command of the Oceans, a museum designed by Baynes and Mitchell Architects by renovating the former dockyards in Chatham. The Chatham Dockyards were one of Britain’s oldest, where more than five hundred vessels were built for the Royal Navy before the dockyards shut down in 1984.
The Command of the Oceans project opening the dockyard to the public has received numerous awards from Riba, as well as being shortlisted for the Riba Stirling Prize, the most sought-after award for buildings constructed in the UK. The judges praised its inventive re-use of the existing context and urban fabric. The historic importance of the existing constructions is underlined by the architects’ project, which also gives the complex a new soul. The materials used are black metal, concrete and wood, characteristic of the industrial idiom chosen to recall the historic buildings’ past and fit them into the historic urban landscape. The museum route through the constructions, transformed into museum galleries, not only tells the dockyards’ story but takes visitors to discover the HMS Namur, "The ship beneath the floor", as it was christened when the wooden parts of the ship were found by chance in 1995: this important warship of the Royal Navy had been reused to consolidate the floor of one of the buildings in the dockyard.