Project 5: Urban Design Project (Week1)

This is our last design project of the year, and it lasts only 3 weeks. On the first week, we were set into random groups of students, which would be our groups for the whole design project. With the aid of our 300-word short reports about a familiar urban area to us, we were given the brief. However, this only happened on Friday. Regardless, I guess the time without the brief opened our eyes to different possibilities of thinking about the ways urban spaces work: especially thanks to our tutorial on Friday morning.

This is the only actual work that we have had to do for this project so far: (not counting the work that we did for the casual tutorial about urban spaces and their future and ways)

‘Grand Place’ – Brussels

‘Place’ is a strange word in French, since it is a false friend of the English word place. It means plaza or square, which just happens to be a place. All ‘places’ are places, but not all places are ‘places’. This is important, since I am at the heart of the very, very cosmopolitan city of Brussels. Along with the three national languages, English is commonly spoken, especially at this most magnificent square. I cannot remember the first time I entered the Grand Place, but it is ‘grand’. It isn’t only big, but somehow grand too. What you do see first, from most angles, is the spire of the largest building, and then your eyes slowly go around the ornate and well-crafted buildings that all the guilds and previous conquerors of Belgium built. I am not 100% certain if they are all original or renovated, for tourists. When it doesn’t rain, tourists pour from the four or five different narrow streets that open up to the square. The ‘Grand Place’ is a must-see location for anyone and one can normally only venture there ‘a pied’. However, I saw a lucky newly-wed couple allowed to drive there. At night, the Grand Place is a hub that fuels the small streets surrounding it, with their restaurants and bars. Very rarely people enjoy a night-out on the plaza, since it is quite open and can get chilly. In summer, people do stay enjoying bottle of various ‘fancy’ beverages, and it is socially acceptable. Police patrols do keep an eye on this though, it is better to be prudent. It is not a dark place to be at night, since the old magnificent buildings are very well lit throughout the night: a most wonderful sight that every-one should experience at least once.

The brief is the following: our group shall attempt an answer to this brief within the next 14 days. Lots of work, but fun, hopefully! The interesting part is that there is a choice and there are several other groups, so there should be plenty of variation.

ARC 101: Urban Design Project Brief

There are two development sites. Both sites are substantially derelict and/or covered by surface level car parks. They both have important historic fragments (top nw corner in Site A and the medieval town wall in the middle of Site B).

Each group will select and develop ideas for only one of the sites.

Objectives: This is very much about ideas and you should make use of your earlier research work on crowds, urban space and ideas for the future city. We are looking for radical, alternative, experimental proposals compared to what might happen routinely. But, as always, you must be able to explain and justify your ideas. You are not allowed to be merely shocking or arbitrary.

Try to link the readings and the discussions of 'significant places' in Newcastle to your work. These discussions mostly hinged around the way these spaces work (well) for both individuals and crowds. There are other bits of Newcastle that
absolutely don't work in this way - the bits at the bottom of Pilgrim Street and back of Central Station are examples. We have set the task in the form of an ideas competition for one or other of these dramatic but dysfunctional sites. The requirement is to speculate about future activities/combinations of activities that might act as a catalyst for a good individual/crowd relationship. You must then show what physical changes/interventions would engender this new situation. The physical interventions can be anything/any scale/made of imagined new materials etc. But justification/explanation is critically important.

Method: I think that you should operate using your own intelligence and observations of the city and the sites. Time is too short for you to do a crash-course in urban planning or urban design. There are a huge number of planning reports on Newcastle on the web but if you access them you could easily be swamped by an excess of information. You should have confidence in your own ideas and observations

Output: This is very open but each group should make a good sized model of their site and the immediate surroundings and they should use the model to test their various ideas . The justification/explanation can be through images on display boards and oral presentation. I strongly support the idea of groups making short videos to promote their schemes but this is a suggestion rather than a requirement

Assessment: This is a group project and every member of a group will get the same mark (providing that they have participated fully in the project

Development sites in green

Site A at bottom of Pilgrim Street

Site B at back of Central Station

Ok, Enjoy the following posts about our groups work. I might be slightly vague about our ideas, since we might choose not to reveal all our original ideas before the final review in 14 days. Photos of models and sites and working might be available. Please do ask for permission to use my photos if you need them. Thanks! Should be a FUN FUN project!!

Our chosen site, perhaps??

Non-edited footage of the sites?? - to be worked on in the future.