Southampton City Vinyl

In May 2019 Studio BAD were commissioned to write, and curate a series of urban public realm interventions for Southampton, with a view of activating vacant retail shopfronts and redundant spaces.

The competitions are part of the ongoing, incremental strategy by GO! Southampton to enliven the public realm across the city centre. We were thrilled to see the first of the competitions brought to life, with vinyl artwork erected in place on an empty shopfront, located in the busy High Street.

The artist, Nathan Evans, won this first competition with a design concept for the vinyls, themed around a number of key phrases that represent the city and its inhabitants, reflected though the designs in an uplifting and positive way. Each artwork is crafted to be flexible, allowing them to be used to redecorate any dimension of shop front across the city centre.

The designs act to ask questions about the redundant space and place, what are the opportunities and how can the community get involved to reimagine and repurpose these spaces with new, vibrant uses.

A number of themes were identified in the initial briefing, representing the city in all its diverse forms and showcasing some of the best the city has to offer including: CITY OF LEARNING, CITY OF RESEARCH & INNOVATION, CITY OF CULTURE, CITY OF PLAY, GLOBAL CITY, ENTREPRENURIAL CITY and DIVERSE CITY.

GO! Southampton is the City’s Business Improvement District (BID) for Southampton City Centre. It was originally set up 2017 by a steering group consisting of local businesses and organisations who all share the vision for pushing Southampton to reach its full potential, through projects and improvements. Studio BAD are also collaborating with GO! Southampton on the Bedford Place reactivation scheme.

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

The Business of Listening, discussion record with Business of Architecture.

Click here to listen to my full discussion with Rion Willard, from the Business of Architecture, about the ‘Business of Listening’, a topic I deeply believe in.

It is an area of architecture that I find more relevant and important than ever before, our conversation covers my approach to clients, being a teacher, setting up Studio B.A.D and how I see the role of architects in the 21st century.

Traditionally I feel architects have had a tendance to ‘know’ the solution right from the start but I believe we need to stand back, listen to what a project or client really needs and gaining the trust from the client. This in turn can give us permission as designers to be bold in our approach and our process, it also helps to get clients truly engaged with the process.

Our project at St Margaret’s church is a clear case when listening has been vital in unlocking the potential of the building and what it can offer the community. I think our clients on this project initially found it unnerving when we wanted to take time to listen, as they had expected their architects to come with a solution. We stood back and reflected on what we saw, not just with the physical building but also the community needs. By going through this process, the project has become richer. We were able to persuade the church to reopen the beautiful old church (previously condemned) and discover what the community really needed, since this exercise they have opened a café, a drop in area and second hand shop within the church. By not rushing the solution, this has given up the ability to go deep, aligning our design ideas with the business case of the client and giving solutions that work long term, our solutions for the church have future proofed an unidentified business stream for the church.

The piece around listening and communication is so important. As architects I feel we can’t be passive in all of this, we need to be thinking about the future and the impact our work will have, most importantly how we can have a positive influence. I believe we don’t have to always wait for the brief, we can communicate ideas out. For example, Studio BAD try to only work with existing buildings, pushing the idea of refurbishment and repurpose rather than new build, this stance has given potential clients alternative solutions that they might not have even thought of before.

By adopting this process of being a listener we are able to be influenced by cultural changes, it doesn’t always have to be about a physical change and designing a building, but as architects we can still have positive impact on our communities by working more in a curator role. Working on feasibilities can unlock potentials of buildings and businesses, I feel as a practice we can bring together people from different backgrounds to creating a richer discussion.

The importance of listening is not just relevant in the private sector, it is also critical to my teaching work. I have to really listen to students, learn who they are as people, their background, what interests them. By really listening I start to know what can unlock their potential, but one approach does not work for them all.

I can’t define what a career in architecture looks like now, I feel we should be more flexible on how we see ourselves, being more part of the conversation for positive change rather than just concentrating on the traditional architectural role. Students studying architecture now could go on to be an architect, or work for a developer, or be a developer, or set designer, architecture can be the bedrock for many other disciplines. By being more flexible on where an architectural degree can take you, I believe it takes the pressure off the need to complete all parts of the degree (which doesn’t suit all), helping to redefine what architecture is in the 21st century.

Why teaching matters to me, by Darren Bray

‘I never teach my pupils; I only attempt to provide the conditions in which they can learn.’ –Albert Einstein

 

Since becoming a fully qualified architect I have always kept myself involved with academia, through part time teaching, reviewing exam work and acting as a visiting lecturer at various universities. The more academic work I have been involved with the more I have realized that teaching is important to me, it is part of who I am and what I do and has a positive influence on the evolution of Studio BAD.

Part of the reason I love teaching is that it invigorates me. Students often have a seemingly naïve or fresh way of approaching problems that keeps me from getting stuck into an architectural rut. They also challenge me to be better, to teach better, to design better, as they are not easily impressed by my work experience they do not just accept my word but want proof. I find that by having to justify my ideas and views it makes me think harder.

I feel lucky that my teaching work makes my outlook more current, in this academic world of theory I am exposed to people who would normally be outside my natural sphere of the practice and we all bring different ideas together. In this space theories are explored, this is a luxury many small practices do not normally have the ability to do, often the time spent on the practicalities of running a small practice take over from the time we should really dedicate to critical thinking.

As cliché as it sounds I do also really like giving back, teaching allows me to do that. I am hugely aware of the positive impact my teachers had on me, they helped shape me to become what I am today and I do believe that without their belief in me pushing me forward I would not be a successful architect now. If I can pass this positive impact onto just one of my students then I will feel I have succeeded.

St Margaret’s Church – Phase One Completed.

‘Come as you are, no perfect people allowed in this church’

 

The first phase of our St Margaret’s Church redevelopment is coming to a close. This project has been such a journey. We are so proud to see the physical changes implemented into the building but also to have been part of the design journey the whole community has taken.

We were commissioned to undertake a complete architectural overview of the existing church, a Victorian church with a 50’s front extension. The building was in need of an overhaul, to revitalise it, make it more welcoming and more fitting for the array of community needs. More information on the building refurb can be found here.

Last month saw a milestone moment in the project with the polished concrete floor installation throughout the whole ground floor of the church. The interior has been transformed, the floor unifies the interior and the highly polished surface brings a contemporary edge to the traditional heart of the church.

The floor was installed with trenched underfloor heating, placed in zones and the concrete gives the thermal mass needed to heat this system. One of the key requirements for this phase was to introduce internal heating to the church, after listening to the community and their requirements we opted for underfloor heating as it gave full flexibility for the internal space, with the zones allow the heating to be adjustable across the interior.

Other new facilities which have been completed in this phase include toilets, baby changing facilities, a new kitchen and café and new internal lighting which have been recycled from a Russian factory. Very simple robust and movable furniture has been created as ‘meanwhile’ solutions, the multi-functional furniture can be used across the church offering flexibility of use across the community spaces such as the café, children’s soft play or the food bank. The bespoke units are crafted from birch plywood, on wheels which have created a fully adjustable interior space for the church.

We are so thrilled that Phase One of St Margaret’s Church is nearing completion, this was one of the first large scale community projects that Studio : BAD Architects were commissioned to work on and has become quite a personal project for us. The project has inspired us in so many ways, how the community has embraced the change and future plans for their church; how the client has engaged with the design journey and now driving design forward across the whole church and seeing the building reborn, reusing a sustainable preexisting building.

The next phase includes a revised front entrance, the designs have been submitted for planning and we hope to start on these in the new year.

Image credit: Andrew Malbon

https://www.stmagscc.uk/