The Architecture Centre Network (ACN) was an independent organisation representing centres of architecture and the built environment in the UK. ACN commissioned Atoll to prepare a series of retrospective case studies on the work on the network centres. Below is featured the sixth of six articles prepared in August 2006:
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”.