The Architecture Centre Network (ACN) is an independent organisation representing centres of architecture and the built environment in the UK. ACN commissioned Atoll, through Kerenza Hines to prepare a series of retrospective case studies on the work on the network centres. Below are featured six articles prepared in August 2006:
In 2004, George Ferguson, the president of the Royal Institute of British Architects, addressed a 200-strong audience at the Unitarian chapel at Newington Green in Islington, and praised the efforts of local campaigners who had brought change to their area - an example of what he saw as a national upturn in "pride of place". He cited Newington Green as a prime example of how people power could reverse the fortunes of areas formerly defined by crime, poverty, drugs and prostitution. In this slow but important process, Islington Council 1 also believes that the community has a vital role to play in helping recreate and sustain healthy communities. This is reflected in the excellent programmes already implemented by them in and around Newington Green, and in the forged relationships with bodies like Newington Green Action Group.2
As an important part in this approach, Treasures was a small public art project developed over 3 years, up to 2005 - to explore the hidden beauty, myth and history of Newington Green, using micro-sculpture, with interactively-triggered spoken word and sound loops. The project was developed by Hackney’s Building Exploratory 3 and was funded by Islington Council and the Heritage Lottery Fund. In accordance with the published ambitions of Building Exploratory, Treasures was created to help people ‘make up the unique heritage that defines a place today and sets its path for the future’. Prior to 2002, the Building Exploratory had been working around Newington Green on the Building Memories aural history project - and this sowed the seeds for Treasures.
The 11 Treasures produced were made with the assistance of a local community steering group drawn from around Newington Green. These works were intended to reflect the changes that the area had seen, as well as the future it held. Created by lead artist Anna Hart working with icon artist Richard Tremlett, the Treasures are iconic images relating to the area’s history and culture - whilst the integrated sound recordings feature the voices, thoughts and memories of the multi-racial local community itself. Within the Green, the robust bronze icons are set into the ground, where the sound-loops are activated by directly pressing onto them. As June Lausch, of Newington Green Primary School said, “The treasures project is a wonderful way for our children to connect with their local environment. It is not only ‘hands-on’ but ‘feet-on’ too!” Workshops held with the community, helped form the basis for the icons. From this critical engagement, it quickly became obvious how much children considered the Green to be ‘their’ Green. This was reinforced on the opening night, where great numbers of the community turned up and actively participated, and by the fact that local year 6 children were also willing to be trained as tour guides. The long-term nature of this project meant that artist and people working on it became well known and trusted in the community and as a result, relationships and trust were formed on both sides. For the future, the ambition is that the Treasures ‘voices’ can be changed every 2 years, and will stay in the park for at least the next 10 years.
Since installation in 2005, the legacy of the project has been highlighted practically through positive changes made to traffic flow and in increased usage of the Green itself. However, it is the continued growth in pride in the community of the place that is most notable – as identified by George Ferguson, and as illustrated graphically in a quote received from one of the local residents on the Treasures completion: “I have stopped and discussed them with strangers who turn out to be neighbours”. Or as local poet John Hegley put it: “it’s good to see the ‘new’ in Newington Green”.
The 11 bronze ‘Treasures’ sculptures incorporate the following icons:
Unitarian Chapel – Reflects on the oldest non-conformist church in the country, built on Newington Green in 1708, as a result of the alternative religious community developing in the area before and after the critical Act of Toleration. The recording features a poem by Anna Laetitia, whose husband had been a minister at the Chapel.
Flower – represents both feminist writers (including educationalist Mary Wollstonecraft) and the papier mache and paper flower trade based in the area. The soundtrack features Wollstonecrafts famous ‘A Vindication of the Rights of Women’.
Words – reflects the area as home to a variety of celebrated poets, novelists and other writers over the centuries. A Samual Rogers poem called ‘Pleasures of Memory’ is featured on the soundtrack.
Abacus – recalls the 8 different school that have been located in Newington Green over a 400 year period – including Daniel Defoe’s own ‘School for Dissenters’. Recordings are of readings from Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe.
Bomb – represents the World War 2 bombs dropped nearby and the bomb shelter that was situated under the green. Included is a recording of a piece by 18th century writer Richard Price’s about freedom.
Routemaster 73 – records the passing of the historic bus and route running from the Green to central London. It incorporates recorded poems, made by famous local poets Alison Fell and John Hegley.
Olive Branch – representing the Green as a place of Turkish Cypriot settlement – and includes a poem by Turkish asylum seeker and writer Zeyel Can about London.
Wild Boar – recalls the Green as a medieval village set within a clearing of the ancient Middlesex Forest – through poetry from Newington Green School.
Piano – referring to the local piano makers (1880-1930) and the original Jazz Cafe at number 56, and features 100 words in English and Turkish used to describe the Green.
Numbers 52-55 – references the oldest surviving housing terrace in England that dates from 1658, and lists the names of various people who have lived there.
Ring – represents a diamond ring of a reported Henry VIII concubine, found at Mildmay House on the Green, and recalls the different jobs people have done on the Green over the years.
2. Talk About Tomorrow
As a part of ‘Building Schools for the Future’, 1 the initiative ‘21st Century Schools’ 2 explored the future visioning of schools. This was something that Creative Partnerships in Tendring 3 decided to build upon, following its establishment in the East of England – and where they steered the early focus of architecture and creative spaces, towards the process of more engaged learning itself. Using such approaches, Creative Partnerships believes it can continue to inspire young people, the teaching profession, and the arts community to work together in more creative ways, ’to raise aspirations, nurture imagination and develop thinking skills’. Its aim is to grow creative citizens who will have a voice and a place, and who will develop the life skills necessary to be valuable contributors to their communities. In this process, education is seen as a young persons ‘gateway to their future’.
Developing this concept further, Creative Partnerships funded the 4-month project Talk about Tomorrow - which involving primary schools in Tendring. It was facilitated from November 2005 by architecture centre SHAPE East, 4 and was designed by the network arts organisation called ‘Cambridge, Curiosity and Imagination’ 5 (CCI). The combination of SHAPE, with its stated ambition to ‘help people make better places’, and CCI with its commitment to ‘develop exciting learning opportunities for young people’ was the dream ticket to explore new methods of creative collaboration. In their previous experience, CCI had found that artists and architects were both comfortable in working collaboratively. As part of Talk about Tomorrow, 4-day residencies were created to pair artists and architects with teachers, and to act as Creative Practitioners - to respond to the project title, and to create a personal response to the schools.The process was preceded by detailed ‘induction’ and followed up afterwards with ‘observation’, ‘thinking’ and feedback ‘reflection’ days for all creative facilitators and teachers.
Central to CCI’s approach is something called the ‘Reggio Emilia Approach’ 6. This is a belief that the child is rich, strong and powerful, and that the ‘rhythm and pace’ of a child should always be given overriding importance. As such, all Creative Practitioners took up an early stance during the projects, working alongside the children, rather than acting as ‘experts’ – seeing themselves as co-learners with the children, to discover along with them. As one Creative Practitioner put it: “we encouraged children to explore their own ideas and we take them on a journey that allows them to do so”. To best facilitate this process, Creative Practitioners used ‘learning spaces’ that they felt could be ‘neutralised’ in order that the children weren’t ‘squeezed out’. In these, displays were covered over by white sheets or paper; furniture was moved, so that floors could be fully accessible; and rooms were darkened so that specific sources of light could be introduced – becoming as one Creative Practitioner described, “a space that was open to transformation”.
Given the constraints of many aspects of the National Curriculum, for many of the teachers involved, the experience of Talk about Tomorrow was initially uncomfortable. However, once they had been able to observe at first hand the impact on their children of working in a more process-led, child-centred way, they began to appreciate the powerful learning behaviours that such creative approaches could enable. One Head Teacher, who embraced the project in her school with enormous enthusiasm, felt the Creative Practitioners offered powerful role models for her staff. “Creative Practitioners are facilitators not Educators…we need to move away from having a teacher up front delivering learning”. This model represents how SHAPE would like to use creative consultation, in the future – where such process-led learning can begin to break down barriers whilst starting serious debates.
The Curiosity & Imagination network is made up of people who are developing exciting learning opportunities for children and young people in all kinds of settings across the UK. Curiosity & Imagination promotes an approach to children's learning which: harnesses the power of playful, hands-on experience as a tool for learning; empowers parents and carers to support their children's learning; encourages community ownership of the provision, giving children a central role in decision-making; and draws in expertise from local partners across a range of sectors.
In educational terms, the northern Italian town of Reggio Emilia has become renowned worldwide for its forward thinking and exemplary approach to early childhood education - founding the Reggio Emilia Approach, and seeing itself as the ‘International Center for the Defence and Promotion of the Rights and Potential of All Children’.
A typical project from Talk about Tomorrow, involved architect Adam Peavoy and artist Christian Lorimer spending time together in a school in Harwich. Whilst carrying out the residency. There, they took photographs of the surrounding environment then worked with the pupils to explore them to get them to think about it. Results were printed large onto banners and put them in the room they were working in. Pupils were then asked to make responses via clay - to see how these images influenced their thoughts.
5. www.centresforcuriosity.org.uk 6. http://zerosei.comune.re.it/inter/index.htm
3. 6000 Miles
Scotland’s coastline, measures six thousand miles along its length, and whilst the human settlements along it have remained over the centuries, this has largely been achieved through a difficult coexistence with their isolated surroundings. Here, repercussions of the 18th century Highland Clearances are still felt – where imposed clearances forced highlanders onto unproductive coastal belts, a fact that still contributes to their economic and social situation today. Indeed, a ‘Coastal Socio-Economic Scoping Study’ produced by the University of Aberdeen in 2002,1 reported that the remote coastal regions of Scotland remain faced with many socio-economic pressures, ranging from low income, high unemployment and multiple deprivations, through to many problems associated with ‘‘in’ and ‘out’ migrating populations.
To help engage with the complex issues of coastal communities, a touring exhibition and education programme called 6000 miles 2 was curated in May 2005 by The Lighthouse - Scotland's first national centre for architecture and design.3 The programme reinterpreted the story of the evolving Scottish coastal landscape - investigating how a human relationship with it was forged, and might best develop in the future. As part of the programme, five invited design practices examined the changing nature of this relationship, through each working under a different theme to highlight issues. Funded through the Scottish Executive’s National Programme, and informed by their Policy on Architecture,4 after an initial 6-week installation at the Lighthouse, the exhibition then toured throughout Scotland.
An important component of the programme was the education outreach element, designed by Tassy Thompson, which complemented the exhibition, and used artists rather than designers, to explore central themes. The project worked through the Cultural Coordination Network to target remote coastal primary schools, eventually focusing on 4 schools – a selection that both mirrored the artists chosen, as well as highlighted regional differences. Prior to the initiation of the programme, digital artist Caroline Campbell, also developed a website, and carried out research on aspects of the area and community having most potential. From this, she designed an individual brief and process for each school - setting homework on the geography, history and culture of each place, before visiting each school to run workshops. For example, Musselburgh School’s brief was to consider a model bridge for the future – and included its design, location, selection of materials and structure - as well as its overall use and name. To conclude this project, pupils constructed final bridge models that were displayed and photographed against a projected backdrop of the local map.
Unquestionably, this creative project provided a unique opportunity for primary children to explore their own landscape and life - facilitated by working alongside a select peer group of artists and designers drawn from across a wider Scotland. The side-effect of the process also engaged with their own teachers and parents, as well as with the wider community (both local and online), helping all to address many of the negative issues associated with coastal communities. Undoubtedly, tiny programmes like 6000 Miles can never solve such massive social and economic problems in isolation. However, they can if implemented as part of sustained holistic programmes, contribute to increased self-evaluation and externalised awareness-raising - thereby building public pride, profile and demand for ever more creative and collaborative regeneration practices.
Design Practices involved in the main exhibition were: block architecture, gm + ad architects, Graven Images, GROSS. MAX. Landscape Architects, and Wiszniewski Thomson Architects.
Primary schools chosen to participate in the educational outreach programme were based in Mallaig, Musselburgh, Tayport and Sandhead/Kirkcolm.
On completion, 10 representatives from each school were invited to tour The Lighthouse, to see the final exhibition and to meet the children from other participating schools in a final workshop.
Feedback on what its like to live in each schools area of coastline was presented through a series of postcards from the coast. As well as the website, a Lighthouse publication and DVD accompanied the exhibition.
Key curators for the educational programme were: Education Project Artist: Caroline Campbell; Education Project Coordinator: Tassy Thompson; and Education Project Assistant: Christopher Kane.
4. The A-Factor
Architecture Week 1 is the annual public celebration of historical and contemporary architecture in the UK. The week in June, aims to ‘explore architecture and the built environment via the arts and culture in an entertaining and informative way, with a rolling schedule of activities’. It is organised and co-ordinated through Arts Council England, Royal Institute of British Architects and Architecture Centre Network offices across the country. As part of Architecture Week in 2005, Northern Architecture 2 worked with school and college students in the North East, to explore landmarks and landscapes, and to design a beacon for their sub-region. An exhibition of that project, ‘North East SuperRegion!’ showcased the results – and celebrated the environmental awareness and design skills of local children and young people. As part of the project, participants were supported by Architectural Assistants brought in from local architectural practices – as part of an ongoing education programme for Northern Architecture.
June 2006 marked the 10th anniversary of Architecture Week, and as a result, a large number of innovative projects were setup around the country. Between February and June of that year, a project called The A-Factor was established by Northern Architecture as an Architecture Week education and training project – a clear development on from SuperRegion! The programme was run for 13 architectural assistants and newly qualified architects, and was to give them experience of delivering educational projects within primary schools and colleges in the North East. As a result, and with the support of Northern Architecture, they devised and delivered the Chillooteries project – the term abstracted from the Scottish colloquial ‘Sitooterie’, meaning a place to sit out and out and contemplate. The architectural assistants worked in small teams with a linked primary school or college group to explore a sense of place in chosen sites and inspired and guided students to design Chillooteries for their own schools, colleges and communities. Teachers supported the ideas and project delivery, with the sites being eventually chosen by the young people themselves. The groups were allowed to explore these sites through drawing, photography, collage, modelling and creative writing. This work was then displayed in Newcastle’s atmospheric Castle Keep as an Architecture Week 2006 event itself. Many of the participating groups came along to view their work and take part in activities.
As well as the main design workshops and exhibitions, key stakeholder CITB-ConstructionSkills 3 also provided a training day under their Construction Ambassadors scheme. Brought on board by Northern Architecture due to similar educational remits, the Construction Ambassadors programme gave young people a real-life perspective into the built environment industry by visiting their schools and giving presentations or organising activities. Similar in concept to the small group of architectural assistants engaged by the A-Factor, this is huge national network of people who already work in construction, and ranges from young graduates to experienced workers, and covers all the trades and professions. Co-ordinated by CITB-ConstructionSkills, a Construction Ambassador’s main role is to ‘share his or her experiences of a career in construction and help promote the industry as a whole’.
The positive legacy for Northern Architecture of this 2-year project has been the growth in scale and quality of delivery – as well as the increased network of partners. Both SuperRegion! and The A-Factor have proven themselves as education projects that both engages architectural practices, and is of benefit to young people in the North East. This approach has now become core to Northern Architecture’s education model, and will hopefully also be part of the 2007 programme too. Northern Architecture would like to see other architecture centres adopt similar systems in the future.
Project Partners for the A-Factor were: CITB-Construction Skills and SETPOINT North East – with financial support for the exhibition coming from Architecture Week funding, and Photoline City Limited.
Architectural Practices involved were: Sunderland Housing Group, Niven & Niven Architects, Harkin Associates, Waring & Netts, Faulkner Brown, Michael Laird Associates, Fluid and Purcell Miller Tritton.
13 architectural assistants took part in the project, working with approximately 90 young people - aged from primary school to college students. Places for assistants were advertised through RIBA and Northern Architecture, with meetings taking place over a month – three afternoons for each group. During that time, teams discussed what project and what brief they wanted to do, whilst Northern architecture facilitated the sessions and part of process.
Benefits to architectural assistant have included experience in training and experience in engaging young people for future workshop consultations, developing creative project as part of a collaborative team, and in developing their wider presentation skills.
Benefits to students and young people have included them taking part in creative workshops, and using new techniques and skills, learning more about the environment in which they live by exploring a sense of place, and working to a design brief, to begin to understand architecture and place making.
The practical legacy of the project has had great educational spin offs also: Two newly qualified architects who participated in 2005 have since gone on to work with Northern Architecture on a Creative Partnerships Tees Valley working with teenagers to suggest ways to improve the design of two local libraries. Other participants have worked with school groups in Architecture Week and in another Northern Architecture project The Way We Live.
Bristol saw the 200th anniversary of the birth of Isambard Kingdom Brunel marked in 2006 by a series of ‘Brunel 200’ 1celebrations. Brunel was a man of ideas who saw the great opportunities of the industrial revolution, and brought together arts and sciences in a way never seen before - creating projects of both function and beauty. To commemorate his creative fusion, one of the key projects was for a ‘200 ideas for Bristol’ competition - that called for ‘great ideas to make Bristol an even better place to live in, work in and visit’.
Submitting proposals for a project called Platform to the competition, Jonathan Mosely and Sophie Warren visualised Bristol being used as a game board - with players navigating passage throughout the city to visit defined places, to leave behind a ‘platform’ sculpture and then to document it. The submitted idea was spotted by Lottie Storey, the regional co-coordinator for Architecture Week in the South West, who with Gillian Fearnyough, Director of The Architecture Centre, 2 commissioned and managed the project to take place before Architecture Week 3 in June, so that an exhibition of the game could then feature during the week. The project was one of three commissioned works, and was part of an initiative designed to get people to think about architecture by getting out onto the street and talking to them about it.
Jonathan Mosley is an artist and architect who lectures at the University of the West of England, and Sophie Warren a Fine Art Sculptor. As such, their past collaborative work has often centred on projects that respond to place and context through architecture, intervention and gallery based installation.4 Platform was conceived by them during a joint research trip to Mexico City, with their idea for Bristol being centred on a transportable case with an OS map of the city placed in the lid. This map showed the physical city including the houses, buildings and gardens, with a grid overlaid. The inside of the case was separated into 70 compartments, each which held a ‘platform’ – a ‘cuboid’ sculpture with steps cut into the edges. Each of 70 players chose a different intersection point on the grid on the map and were invited to take the related ‘platform’ to the real intersection point in Bristol and leave it there. Players were invited to send back photos, text or email, as a record of the journey and placements having taken place. Collectively, the individual journeys and actions of the participants were intended to create a mass survey of the city – one which according to the two artists, could “map the diversity and the intrigue of our built environment”.
Even though the show finished in July, documentation images are still being received back. Both Mosely and Warren are interested in Platform now being applied to other cities – where they feel people can get to know a city through the game. They are particularly interested in going to a city they don’t know and seeing the images that would come back from there. Platform was the second piece of work that the Architecture Centre has commissioned from the two artists. The success of these projects has developed the collaborative relationship between the Architecture Centre and artists, and exploring further the cultural overlap between art, architecture and urbanism itself – whilst helping present work in new ways, and developing new audiences in the process.
The Platform structure was conceived as an sculptural and architectural shape – being made out of Jasamite durable plaster with Portland stone dust and some black pigment in it and cast.
Platform can be played in any city. A case will contain a kit for the game with a large scale map on the inside lid, platforms laid out within it for display and to take away along with a set of maps and game rules.The case will be carried around the city and opened up for display to engage the passer-by.
The passer-by is invited to choose an existing Ordnance Survey grid intersection point on a map of the city which is positioned on the inside lid of the case and marks his or her name on that point. He or she is given the rules of the game, a map to take away (also with the intersection point marked) and a platform. The moment the platform is handed over to the participant the game begins.
The participant navigates his/her way to the point, and holds, drops, positions or discards the platform as near to the intersection point as possible.
The platform is documented in the place by the participant by a photograph, text message or email description which is then sent to the artists who collate and circulate the information to all the participants.
All documentation and feedback is put on display within the case (now empty of platforms) which evolves as a working record of the game’s progress.
Sophie Warren and Jonathan Mosley’s work has been exhibited in the UK and New York and published in the architectural and art press. Current projects include ‘Howtomakeartinparadise’ an initiative in response to suburbia with Neville Gabie and Tessa Fitzjohn; a collaboration with architectural writer Robin Wilson resulting in a series of publications and interventions; and work for ‘Wig Wam Bam’, an exhibition curated by Marcus Coates and Claire Barclay with Plan9 at the Red Lodge during the British Art Show in Bristol.
The historic area of Eastside forms a key part to Birmingham City Council’s 1 continued regeneration of the city - with a vision to incorporate economic investment and job creation there, as well as create significant cultural growth. A challenging ten-year project to regenerate 170 hectares to the east of the city centre, Eastside will expand the existing network of public squares, spaces and streets in the city. The difference here, will be that the City Council also intends to unite public and private sector agencies, to develop a ‘learning, technology and heritage quarter’, whilst also being a best practice exemplar in sustainable development - with The Eastside Sustainability Advisory Group’s 2 ‘Vision for the Future’, setting out how Eastside can become a socially, environmentally and economically successful place.
As part of a highly collaborative approach, regional architecture centre MADE 3 has been invited into an innovative partnership, brokered between the developer ISIS 4 and Birmingham City Council. The joint brief is to develop a waterside development scheme, called Warwick Bar situated at the heart of historic Eastside, as a carbon-neutral and mixed-use cultural village, with a truly developed ‘sense of place’. ISIS is the UK’s leading waterside property developer, specialising in the regeneration of such waterside brownfield sites. MADE’s specialist role will be in assisting this regenerative process, whilst advocating for the fact that ‘the designed environment has a cultural, economic, environmental, functional and social value to all of us and to our sustainable future’. It is intended that the community will be engaged by MADE in this process, which may well lead to a community representative also joining the wider development group.
Over the next 10 years, MADE will be working closely with the regeneration team, and will be helping explore and broker many projects, including developing the site as a learning resource - with the audience being the professional sector, higher education, schools and general public. Other stated key tasks include helping bring artists and designers to work on the ‘sensory texture and fabric’ of Eastside to map local distinctiveness; and, as the Grand Union Canal at Eastside is a conservation area as well as the most important wildlife node in the city centre, working to demonstrate ‘how the intensification of human activity in Digbeth can successfully coexist with the native flora and fauna’ - rather than driving them out as is so often the case. As such, MADE’s pivotal role is naturally considered very important by the partnership, with Mike Finkill, ISIS Regeneration Director stating “MADE are helping to create the product that Warwick Bar will become, that is, a vibrant place to live that will be known for good design and a commitment to making places for people”.
As an important member of this development team, MADE will also work to ensure the project maintains an exemplar status, through helping to establish good practice from the outset. With this aim, MADE intends to disseminate the development process from start to finish as a learning tool for professionals and students in architecture and urban regeneration, and to highlight the role of good design for ensuring sustainable communities. As tenants on the site of Warwick Bar, MADE feels this is a case of ‘living the renaissance’, a unique opportunity for an architecture centre to undertake ‘real-time’ long term action research. From this ground-breaking work, MADE hope to use the prominent role of this major regional redevelopment site to its advantage. It believes the project can effectively disseminate the aims of the centre, as well as provide an opportunity through action-research to ‘learn for ourselves about development’. MADE hopes the legacy to come out of this process will be a “strong learning resource on built regeneration and sustainable development in the built environment”.
ISIS were formed as a limited Partnership, launched at the Urban Summit in the Autumn of 2002, with a £100 million of initial equity investment from British Waterways, AMEC Developments and Morley Fund Management’s Igloo Fund, they are now working in 9 towns and cities across the UK.
Young Birmingham firm Kinetic AIU 5 won the competition to design the masterplan for Warwick Bar. Kinetic, were founded only two years ago, and beat a shortlist that included Fat, Azhar Architects and S333 Architecture, to be awarded the contract to draw up the regeneration blueprint. The judging panel was made up from representatives from Birmingham City Council, ISIS, British Waterways and MADE. Kinetic AIU won the contract with their exciting approach to waterside development and a strong sense of environment and distinctiveness of place. Director of Kinetic AIU, Bob Ghosh said: “we had a strong yet simple idea for the site, which will create an intimate network of carefully crafted streets and squares, which have a dynamic relationship with the canals and Birmingham's forgotten river…..Our strategy for the public spaces is to reveal the layers of the site's rich industrial history, where buildings 'grow' out of a complex landscape. The other main facet of our vision is to realise the opportunity to create a diverse mixed community, which seamlessly knits into the rest of Eastside”.
To cover the growing cultural mandate in the Eastside regeneration, Arts Council England, West Midlands 6 and Birmingham City Council have also recently appointed Nigel Edmondson as the ‘Eastside Arts Ambassador’. Arts Council England state that the post has been created “to ensure artists and arts organisations regionally, nationally and internationally play an integral role in the regeneration of the Eastside area of Birmingham”.