A dyed-in-the-street Londoner who becomes short-of-breath at the merest thought of spending time outside of my beloved Capital, I recently boarded a Bank Holiday train for a Bristol weekend with architect and man about town, George Ferguson. I arrived late afternoon and we spent the evening in lively conversational debate, over delicious dinner at No 1 Harbourside, before making a pit-stop at The Grain Barge and heading back to his place at the Tobacco Factory. There, I somehow absorbed my single malt nightcap whilst gleefully enjoying the even tipsier motion of his Spun Chair, a joyful piece of furniture and a perfect antidote to my own spins. I slept like a baby.
The new morning brought a hangover; a clear, blinding sun shone into this blind-free Loft … and far too early. But after shoehorning me into the day with tea and toast, George took us to see Ferguson Mann’s latest triumph, created for visionary developer Urban Splash.
Lakeshore is an architectural jewel that takes an arresting 1970s commercial structure seamlessly into a 21st Century, affordable, residential, urban dream-come-true. For this glittering building lies gracefully across a substantial lake colonised by fish and ducks, surrounded by woodlands, wild flowers, sloping meadows and even residents’ allotments glimpsed through tendrils of mature willow – all within ten minutes of the City centre.
Lakeshore’s architecture has been sculpted to accommodate over 600 apartments, conjoined by walkways of colour, astonishing perspectives, internal lawns and gorgeous graphics. Nothing has been left to chance.
Internally, the apartments are light, airy and – oh, the views. George has one set aside, so as to test-drive his own creation for at least three months. In which case he can comment also on the highly prized environmental engineering, of which Lakeshore is rightly very proud, for this is award-winning stuff.
In the era of my former PR business Forte Communication, a favourite client was the brilliant Patrick Bellew, founder of Atelier Ten, for over thirty years an environmental engineer - an influence and activist long before such things became either fashionable or deemed essential to a cleaner world.
For Lakeshore, Atelier Ten has created an environmental system that achieves an uncommon “excellent” Ecohomes rating. They have reached this by applying centuries old technology. A ground source heat pump system linked to geothermal boreholes provides heating and hot water to every apartment and the lake serves as a seasonal solar energy store: a system with more implicit common sense than any ill-conceived air conditioning systems could claim.
How do I know this? I confess an interest: I was involved in launching Atelier Ten’s role in Lakeshore when the team was put together some six years ago. Seeing the original concept finished in all its glorious concrete and glass, gives me am odd but so satisfying sense of completion. Urban Splash deserves medals for applying such clever technology way ahead of mainstream acceptance; it takes a rare developer to invest in genuine environmental integrity.
My colourful Bristol day continued apace, with delicious and friendly lunch at Zazu’s Kitchen in Clifton (Celeriac bisque with pesto and sourdough), after which we ventured dockside to tap our toes to crazy music from the Jazz Disaster boys. Then, aboard the Bristol Ferry, I was presented with layer upon layer of waterway-rich architectural narrative, revealing the evolution and history surrounding one of the UK’s most engaging and promising Cities.
Unusually for so many cities around the UK, Bristol has had the chutzpah to encourage the brilliantly articulated conversion of this former Imperial Tobacco HQ, giving those that prefer to live outside the centre somewhere beautiful to be. Well done, Bristol, Atelier Ten - but most of all, well done Urban Splash