Reading University lecture

We were delighted to be invited by Reading University Architecture Society to deliver a lecture in their 2022 lecture series titled ” REFORMATION REQUIRES” which we gave last night; after so long presenting lectures across zoom it was a delight to be back talking to a real audience.

For the lecture I focused on our most recent community and public realm work, to highlight how architecture can be a vehicle for positive social change. This is an area which all of us at Studio BAD are really passionate about, in many ways it is a key pillar of the company and the reason I set up the business as I wanted to focus on this area of work.

We strongly believe in re-using what is existing, creatively engaging architecture to re-imagine the potential of a building, or a site, to make it fit the current needs. For example, St Margaret’s Church building had been condemned and likely set for demolition, through our work we have delivered a vibrant space for the whole community which is activated throughout the day and week with much needed services, such as a food bank, café, child’s play area and bicycle workshop. We touched the building lightly, only making physically alterations where vitally needed, such as the flooring where we replaced the wooden floor (which we sold, to help fund the works) and replaced with poured concrete, to work with the newly installed, zoned underfloor heating.

Architecture in the 21st century does not have to be just about a physical building, I believe many projects need architecture in a different which is not necessarily just about the bricks and mortar buildings. We have recently been working on projects that focus on reactivating the traditional high street; with these projects we interrogate how we can change the dynamic of the streets to create vibrant and engaging spaces. In Bedford Place, in Southampton, our project was a result of the community needs in the wake of covid, answering how to activate and reanimate the area to create opportunities off the back of temporary road closures. It has been a real pleasure to see the success of the scheme, now nearly two years later much of the scheme is still in place and the local council are looking to make it permanent. We are currently looking at similar reactivation projects in Gosport, Eastleigh and other areas of Southampton.

We truly believe Architecture can creatively problem solve many of the issues we are currently facing; without ego architecture can be immensely powerful, helping to reactive our cities, reduce waste, reduce carbon and deliver richer, long lasting and interesting projects.

 

 

The 20 minute city

Studio BAD have been working on several urban planning schemes, each looking at how design can positively assist with the recovery plans after COVID-19, helping to support a deeper, stronger recovery for urban centres and create greener urban centres going forward.

The ’20 Minute City’ concept is an idea I have become increasingly interested in as a model to embrace. This idea is a break away from the current trend, which tends to zone aspects of life separately, like living and working, relying on private cars as the main mode of transport. This concept instead brings together all aspects of day to day life, so rather than having our lives separated, this plan brings everything one might need on a day to day basis, such as work, home, doctors and schools, within a short distance. The concept goes hand in hand with the urgent need to address our climate changes and introduce a green policy across our cities.

The COVID-19 pandemic has given us an opportunity to rethink how we live. With so many of us now successfully working from home it has made people question the need, and want, to go back to commuting long distances to work on a daily basis. Bringing everything within a short distance, which is can be covered without needing a car, creates richer and more liveable neighbourhoods which could help regenerate our urban centres after the pandemic.

The core principles include being able to live locally with a diversity of housing, with a mix of commerce and utilities linked by a safe, walkable urban neighbourhood, safe cycling routes, high-quality public realm and open spaces. Everyday needs should be met within this 20 minute radius without the need of a car, shifting the need for private transportation and improving the ability to walking, cycling or using public transport for most needs. The concept it intentionally loose, allowing each area to embrace it individually and edit to fit the needs of the local context and community.

Our project at Bedford Place, in central Southampton, looked at fresh ways to revive this niche area just to the north of the main shopping area. The streets are well regarded as an area for boutique shopping but have been badly hit by the pandemic, to support social distancing the streets were closed to cars and we looked at how this could be built on to inject new life into the community and the public realm, strengthening the sense of community and supporting local economies to thrive.

Infographic source; c40knowledgehub.org

Painting started at Bedford Place

This week the street painting has started at Carlton Terrace in Southampton, it is so great to see the plans we had for this area getting put into action. The bold, geographic design runs over 130 meters down the street, creating a vibrant and engaging backdrop for this newly pedestrianised area, which the council have confirmed will be in place until at least the end of the summer.

The painting is part of the wider strategy for the reactivation of the Bedford Place area which includes the pedestrianisation of the streets, decorated concrete barriers, outdoor seating and planting.

Last year some of the roads in this area were closed temporarily, to assist with social distancing measure and offer additional outdoor seating space for pubs and restaurants. The council took the opportunity to review if this could be a more permanent change, to support the economic recovery, greener living and creating a more vibrant community. We worked as part of a team, reviewing different ways design could help create a more engaging and thriving destination for this area of the city.

I cannot wait to see the painting completed, it is going to look amazing, and once lockdown rules are lifted later this month the space is going to transform again with people activating the streets.

 

Councillor Steve Leggett, Cabinet Member for Green City and Place, says:

“Bedford Place businesses are an important part of our local economy and we are committed to supporting their recovery and to seeing Bedford Place become once again a vibrant, thriving area where people can meet and spend time safely.”

For further details about the Bedford Place scheme, visit:  https://transport.southampton.gov.uk/bedfordplace

Ecology of Communities lecture for PASS Portsmouth

I was delighted to take part in the PASS (Portsmouth Architecture School Society) series of lectures around the ‘Ecology of Communities’ last month. As a part time academic I feel it is important to continue to engage the next generation and to inspire those coming through. Others who have been part of this lecture series have included Piers Taylor, James Dale, Jo Hagan and Spark Architects. The whole series can be found on YouTube

 

‘In this time of uncertainty, we need more tolerance, compassion, and trust for each other since we all are one. Otherwise, humanity will face an even bigger crisis’

Ai Weiwei, Humanity

 

As a practice we have been fortunate to work on several community based projects, such as October Books, Bedford Place and St Margaret’s church, each quite different, with their distinct set of design aims, but all with driver to engage with their local community.

Recently we have been working on a feasibility for a mini masterplan of the Bedford Place district of Southampton. The area is set at the opposite end of town to the large shopping malls and has a reputation for being an independent district, with handsome Grade II listed buildings and with boutique retail offering and local restaurants. Due to the Covid outbreak many of the streets were closed to cars earlier this summer to allow for extra social distancing and additional outdoor seating. Initially this was a temporary measure by the council, done in haste and without much thought to the aesthetics, we were brought onboard to look at on-going street activation and animation.

Our recommendations included painting the concrete bollards, originally quite bleak but now bright and colourful, even acting as a draw to bring people to the area to see and engage with it. Our street activation plans have gone further to address the signage, put up street bunting, paint the road, increase planting and set up a series of events throughout the year to use this space. We see this as a huge opportunity for Southampton to create a distinctive district, with a unique sense of place which will draw people in, helping to improve the local economy.

This type of project is highly emotive, whenever there are discussions regarding reducing car access it makes people very passionate as we are a nation addicted to our cars. This is not a new thing, it is easy to find videos from Amsterdam in the 1970’s of locals getting violent at the new pedestrian streets, an area we now look at so positively.

It is however important to listen to the community and their concerns, to really hear what they are saying and reflect on their fears. As an architect it is important to not bring your ego or believe you know the solution from the start, I believe you can learn a great deal through listening and responding to issues, not only will you gain better community engagement in the project but it often makes for a far richer project.

Take a listen to the whole webinar here, it covers a lot more including an interesting Q&A session at the end which covers politics, dyslexia, collaboration, sustainability and even imposter syndrome.

The lecture can be seen here on YouTube. 

PASS lecture