The Art Deco-inspired Control Tower is Grade II listed, built in 1942 and regarded as one of the best examples of its type. It has been carefully and respectfully refurbished and provides the centrepiece for the new piazza, part of Liberty Square the retail centre for Kings Hill.
As well as restoring the original Control Tower building, two single storey extensions have been added. One of the new extensions houses a cultural centre for use by the community. The other extension, together with part of the ground floor of the original building, is a new coffee shop. The second floor has been extended and has become office space, together with the first floor. Secondary windows have been installed and the original windows restored, ensuring the building is watertight. All works were monitored by the Conservation Officer.
Kings Hill: A Place of Landings is a series of public artworks inspired by the Control Tower, its heritage and the community, that were installed in August 2014, around the building.
The artworks were commissioned by Kings Hill development partners Liberty Property Trust UK and Kent County Council, from recommendations set out in the Kings Hill’s Culture and Placemaking Strategy, developed and written by curators Futurecity. The artworks were designed by artist Richard Wolfströme and fabricated by Millimetre. Community engagement consultants Futurecreative gathered stories, memories and poems about Kings Hill and West Malling through creative community engagement sessions, school workshops and hundreds of postcards sent out in the local area, inviting contributions.
The airfield’s use has changed, yet the stories of its past are intricately woven into the fabric and collective memory of the community who now live and work at Kings Hill. These fragments of memory have been used to make the site’s history come alive and become relevant and accessible to the younger generation and to new residents, visitors and workers coming to Kings Hill. Futurecity’s solution was a radical re-invention of the museum experience, turning it inside-out, creating new public space, crowned by the sensitively renovated, listed, art deco inspired Control Tower – accessible via the coffee shop and new cultural centre.
The artworks comprise 12 brass reliefs, from which brass rubbings can be taken, 11 featuring the planes that were stationed here. The last relief is of the Magical Mystery Tour bus marking the day The Beatles came to town. You can follow the word trails around Liberty Square and read the stories, quotes and ideas provided by the community. Finally, directly in front and behind the Control Tower are ambitious, large-scale roundels, embedded in the ground. The RAF roundel explores the language of ‘slang’ used by pilots in WWII and the seating roundel contains anecdotes and memories provided by friends, families and comrades who lived and worked on the airfield during its lifetime. The newly commissioned sculptural seating and planters offer a chance for rest and contemplation.
Peter Hall, local historian, authenticated the information used in the artworks.
A legacy publication will be available soon, which will provide more information and images about Kings Hill: A Place of Landings.
The general public will be able to view the Control Tower on scheduled Open Heritage Days facilitated by Tonbridge & Malling Borough Council.