What are odds of throwing a jigsaw puzzle into the air and it landing, by chance, fully assembled? ‘They’ say, while it’s not impossible, it is very, very, very, very unlikely. No surprise there, but it’s a fun way of looking at what not to do in the Clock House as it begins its transformation this year.

Inside there are four room radiating east and west from the central tower, itself consisting of two octagonal rooms. Six pieces of a giant—currently imaginary—jigsaw. When we finally open the doors to the public, each of the six spaces will be filled with wonderful historic stories, gorgeous heritage objects, community and learning experiences, and new sense of ‘place’ on the Royal Harbour. So far so good. Except, a part of each of those six pieces needs to be given over to the practical operations of the building – offices, storage areas, loos, staircases, lift, kitchen, etc. all need to be incorporated as well. And the size, shape, and location of the other pieces is still to be determined.

So, while throwing all the jigsaw pieces in the air and hope they’ll land in the just the right place is a tempting strategy, we need to leave it for the preserve of cartoons and dreams. In reality we have to remove any element of chance to make this project a success. Rest assured, no one is throwing anything in the air – except perhaps the odd hat on opening day!

The good news is we have the edges in place – the building itself. The bad news is there’s no picture on the box to help decide what goes where! The result is these imaginary “jigsaw pieces of space”, need to be carefully planned, shaped, and assembled, with everything interlocking perfectly, to create the best possible inclusive visitor experience – that is also functional, practical, flexible, and accessible.

To make this happen in the best way possible is a great team of people working on the jigsaw. Experts and professionals who’ve done this before, with a great understanding of how public spaces work, the understanding of how to create the best visitor flow, and where best to put the gift shop [not necessarily at the exit!]. Everyone involved is fully invested to ensure right to bring to life a community experience everyone can enjoy and be a part of.

Once the jigsaw is completed, the next stage can be planned – that of creating it within the Clock House. That’s a little way off right now, but today the pieces are starting to take shape and an impression of the new spaces will work is starting to emerge. This is not a process to hurry, but with the clocks changing in a couple of weeks and spring starting to raise its happy head, there’s a lot to look forward to in the Clock House.

Rob Warren

Museum & Gallery Consultant and Ramsgate Society Committee Member