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    25 years of
    Urban Splash

    Established Innovators

    1993-2018

    Urban Splash has been around for 25 years now and we have a proven track record of delivering successful and innovative regeneration projects up and down the country.

    We began with small projects that encouraged pioneering people and transformed forgotten places. We’ve moved from individual buildings to city blocks to future neighbourhoods but our focus, as always, remains on creating better places for people.

    To celebrate our 25th year we have partnered with the RIBA on an exhibition entitled “It Will Never Work”, exploring our award winning projects, in the context they were created and against the specific challenges and opportunities of the day.

    The exhibition has helped us define the Urban Splash approach, the ethos of our business that connects all of our projects despite their apparent diversity.


    Exhibition dates

    20 June - 12 September
    Glenn Howells Architects, 321 Bradford Street, Birmingham, B5 6ET

    17 - 28 September
    RIBA London, 66 Portland Place, Marylebone, London, W1B 1NT

    Royal William Yard, Plymouth
    Town House, New Islington, Manchester
    Park Hill, Sheffield
    Lister Mills, Bradford

    The Urban Splash approach to risk includes the certain knowledge that the stock response and the usual advice lead to the same old, same old. In business it is good to know what worked yesterday but even better to build what will work tomorrow. Innovation is a risky business but for a pioneering business, playing it safe is a risk you can’t afford.

    “Picking the most unpromising, most decayed land and buildings, abandoned by all the know-alls; then with wild confidence turning it into humming urbanity full of people, energy and life.”

    Sunand Prasad PPRIBA
    Senior Partner – Penoyre & Prasad

    It’s not all about bricks and mortar. Making successful places means understanding the value people bring, the role of artists as pioneers, the role of designers as facilitators and the role of every Tom, Vic and Hari in building a vibrant community. We should be enthusiastic art pushers and committed design junkies, because pioneering creatives will deliver intangible value to the places they inhabit.

    “A couple of mad-hat dreamers building a mould-breaking design-led property empire, ignoring all good advice from surveyors and agents.”

    George Ferguson CBE PPRIBA
    Mayor of Bristol 2012-16 | People and Cities

    It is the industry devotion to spreadsheets that razes good buildings to the ground, overlooks poorer neighbourhoods and delivers replicants not exemplars. We need to dig deeper, looking for value others have missed and along the way change perceptions of places and save buildings destined for the wrecking ball.

    “Stephen Gardiner’s quote comes to mind at once when I think of Urban Splash “Good buildings come from good people, and all problems are solved by good design.”

    Jane Duncan AIA RIAS PPRIBA
    Jane Duncan Architects

    Planners, developers and architects should go beyond the minimum requirements and deliver exceptional places where real people want to live and work. Places we would live and work ourselves. We should always return to the idea that what we do at our best is the creation of the best possible human habitat.

    “... a roller-coaster 25 years of high design, demonstrating that dogged determination, and wild imagination, combined with some of the best architecture in the UK, is a very potent mix - but of course it will never work!”

    George Ferguson CBE PPRIBA
    Mayor of Bristol 2012-16 | People and Cities

    We should start with the belief that there is a better way, that change is opportunity and every new project should be an exemplar. It is this belief that will make us open to new ideas, intent on learning, enthusiastic collaborators and perennial schemers.

    The early nineties

    Cities are bad

    In cities across the north of England, warehouses and factory buildings, imposing but derelict and dangerous, litter city centres. After 5pm, the city centre dies. You don’t walk around here on your own after dark. But in Liverpool and Manchester’s old industrial buildings, Urban Splash see the bone structure for the kind of regeneration taking place in London’s Docklands. Loft living has entered the British consciousness as a Hollywood meme, but it’s a leap of faith to think this can work in northern cities, Manhattan is a long way from Concert Square.

    1993

    • 0
    • 0
    • 35,000
    Awards
    US Event

    Urban Splash is founded. We also begin developing Concert Square in Liverpool.

    1994

    • 0
    • 18
    • 45,000
    Awards
    US Event

    We celebrate our first anniversary and start our first project in Manchester at Schoolhouse.

    1995

    • 1
    • 28
    • 72,000
    Awards
    US Event

    We bought Smithfield Building in Manchester. Tom is named in Insider's 42 under 42 list.

    1996

    • 7
    • 28
    • 72,000
    Awards

    Architecture
    Concert Square
    Schoolhouse

    US Event

    We win our first ever RIBA Awards for Architecture for Concert Square and Schoolhouse.

    1997

    • 16
    • 28
    • 90,000
    Awards

    Architecture
    Moho
    Sally's Yard (shortlisted)

    Housing Design Awards
    Smithfield Building

    US Event

    Tom and Jonathan turn royal escorts to show HRH The Prince of Wales around Collegiate.

    The Millennium years

    Cities are good

    Sir Richard Rogers’ calls for a more European, city-centred style of living spawns a wave of new thinking on urban regeneration. Cities are the future. Places to work and live. With buildings that aren’t boxes, that have a story and life of their own. Regeneration projects receive an injection of public money. Lenders get the message and private investment follows. Credit easing means builders can build and buyers can buy. Urban Splash is ahead of the curve. The change of mindset towards urbanism and sustainable placemaking comes just as the company is hitting its stride.

    1998

    • 28
    • 109
    • 130,000
    Awards

    Architecture
    Smithfield Building

    US Event

    Urban Splash win two Civic Society Design awards.

    1999

    • 42
    • 109
    • 130,000
    Awards

    Housing Design Awards
    Collegiate

    US Event

    Tom's awarded an MBE for services to regeneration and architecture. On site at Matchworks.

    2000

    • 54
    • 356
    • 155,000
    Awards

    Housing Design Awards
    Chorlton Park
    Timber Wharf

    US Event

    We unveil our masterplan for New Islington. Tom is made an Honorary Fellow of the RIBA.

    2001

    • 67
    • 356
    • 285,000
    Awards

    Architecture
    Britannia Mills
    Old Haymarket

    Housing Design Awards
    Tea Factory

    US Event

    Acquire the Grade II listed Waulk Mill in Ancoats. Continue in Castlefield with Box Works.

    2002

    • 88
    • 646
    • 440,000
    Awards

    Client of the Year
    Urban Splash

    Architecture
    Matchworks
    Collegiate

    US Event

    Our head office, Timber Wharf, is developed in Manchester.

    The noughties

    The bad & the ugly

    Urban regeneration has become highly bankable. Credit is easy to come by, for investors big and small. A new generation of homebuyers are moving into the former factories and warehouses where their parents and grandparents spent their working lives. The urban renaissance is well and truly under way. Urban Splash is at the heart of it. The company seems to have a magic touch with revivals of period buildings in ‘difficult’ locations. Councils across the country want the ‘Urban Splash effect’. The company is their regeneration partner of choice, the go to guys for buildings and projects no one else will touch. Urban Splash is sitting pretty. The poster-boy of urban regeneration.

    2003

    • 109
    • 673
    • 490,000
    Awards

    Architecture
    Chorlton Park
    Timber Wharf
    Box Works
    Waulk Mill

    Housing Design Awards
    Burton Place
    Timber Wharf

    US Event

    Urban Splash is 10! Four RIBA Awards for our Manchester schemes move our total past 100.

    2004

    • 131
    • 673
    • 495,000
    Awards
    US Event

    We launch at Lister Mills in Bradford - transforming the area after it was blighted by rioting.

    2005

    • 158
    • 898
    • 795,000
    Awards

    Housing Design Awards
    Clarence & Brewhouse
    Chimney Pot Park

    US Event

    Urban Splash is the MEN's Business of the Year 2005.

    2006

    • 199
    • 1,181
    • 865,000
    Awards

    Architecture
    Moho
    Clarence & Brewhouse
    Waulk Mill

    Housing Design Awards
    Burton Place
    Piercy Street

    US Event

    We create our 1000th home at Moho. Start our regeneration of Chimney Pot Park.

    2007

    • 233
    • 1,728
    • 1,005,000
    Awards

    Architecture
    Budenberg HAUS Projekte

    US Event

    We launched a new brand look for Urban Splash complete with a bespoke company font.

    The crunch & after

    What doesn't kill you

    On 15 September 2008, Lehman Brothers collapses. Global economic meltdown follows. No one is prepared. No one is safe. Overnight, the shutters come down on finance. Work stops on building sites across the country. Urban Splash has major borrowings committed to big projects in Manchester, Sheffield, Leeds and Bristol. Banks want their money back. Buyers of apartments are pulling out in their dozens. While their peers are throwing in the keys, Bloxham and Falkingham are determined to continue. Pride in what they started prevents them from doing anything else. The company that was born one recession is coming of age in another.

    2008

    • 274
    • 2,495
    • 1,600,000
    Awards

    Architecture
    Chimney Pot Park
    New Islington
    Fort Dunlop

    Housing Design Awards
    Chimney Pot Park
    Smithfield Building

    US Event

    75 years after it first opened the Midland Hotel in Morecambe was relaunched.

    2009

    • 292
    • 2,637
    • 1,600,000
    Awards

    Architecture
    3Towers
    Midland Hotel

    Conservation
    Midland Hotel

    US Event

    Our restoration of the Midland Hotel in Morecambe bags us two RIBA Awards.

    2010

    • 307
    • 2,637
    • 1,600,000
    Awards

    Architecture
    Chips
    Mills Bakery

    Town and County Planning
    Mills Bakery

    US Event

    Awarded Kickstart funding to start work at Saxton, Lakeshore and Chips.

    2011

    • 312
    • 3,106
    • 1,605,000
    Awards
    US Event

    This year saw us complete 500 homes! Park Hill was the highlight.

    2012

    • 328
    • 3,392
    • 1,650,000
    Awards

    Regional Sustainability
    Saxton

    US Event

    A decade in the making, marina at Royal William Yard comes to life, reinvigorating the scheme.

    The twenty-tens

    How we live now

    The recession ends but austerity continues to bite. The ‘Northern Powerhouse’ promises to rebalance the UK economy away from the capital. It includes improvements to transport connectivity, investment in science and innovation. Great news. But back in the here and now static wages, rising prices and a housing shortage are leaving first-time homebuyers behind. Millennials become Generation Rent. Urban Splash turns its mind to the problem. In new housing opportunities are scarce, limited to flimsy, box-like houses with small rooms, low ceilings and tiny windows. Urban Splash is poised to tackle volume housebuilding head on.

    2013

    • 352
    • 3,477
    • 1,750,000
    Awards

    Conservation
    Park Hill

    Yorkshire Region
    Park Hill

    National Award
    Park Hill

    Stirling Prize
    Park Hill (shortlisted)

    US Event

    Places for People join Urban Splash in a JV agreement to undertake the first phase of Park Hill together.

    2014

    • 366
    • 3,477
    • 1,750,000
    Awards

    South West Region
    Royal William Yard
    Lakeshore

    Best Small Project
    Royal William Yard

    Stephen Lawrence Prize
    Royal William Yard (shortlisted)

    US Event

    House - our modular housing product - is launched. Jonathan is made an honorary fellow of LJMU.

    2015

    • 376
    • 3,477
    • 1,800,000
    Awards

    Sustainability
    Lakeshore

    US Event

    A five-year vision was brought to life as the first House prototype lands at New Islington.

    2016

    • 390
    • 3,702
    • 1,800,000
    Awards

    Housing Design Awards
    House

    US Event

    We continue the rollout of House around the country, with the launch of Smith's Dock.

    2017

    • 398
    • 3,733
    • 2,200,000
    Awards

    North West Award
    Stubbs Mill

    US Event

    We're creating some of our largest loft apartments at Avro, one of the last remaining mills in Manchester.

    The future

    Dream on...

    It’s our silver anniversary but we won’t sit back and wait for the golden years.

    Same attitude. Same values. Same approach. New markets. New challenges.

    We’re doing what we’ve always done: taking on problems that others avoid, doing what we say we’ll do, and doing it with quality.

    #US25

    RIBA testimonials

    As part of our 25th anniversary, the last eight presidents of the RIBA have very kindly reflected on the contribution that Urban Splash have made to architecture, regeneration and the built environment over the last 25 years.

    “Everything they do is informed and improved by good design”

    Ben Derbyshire PRIBA Dip Arch Cantab RIBA

    “There is no better example of how design can add value to the business of development in the built environment than is to be found in the work of Urban Splash.

    “In my view that is because it’s founders, entrepreneur Tom Bloxham and architect Jonathan Falkingham, have a proper understanding of what design is. Their combination of talents demonstrates the impact of critical thinking, the core component of design skill, alongside creativity, communication, and an aesthetic sensibility. If you are going to truly benefit from the input of design talent to your business, you need to permit its influence from the very beginning, and across the full range of your process.

    “From the moment I first came across Urban Splash, I could see that was the case. Everything they do is informed and improved by good design. The result, from humble beginnings, is an enviable oeuvre in master-planning, the architecture of new and refurbished buildings, regeneration and placemaking. And they have been generous with it, contributing much to the culture of architecture and design, including at the RIBA.

    “So now they can say, with justification, ‘Look on my works, oh ye mighty, and despair!’”

    “The UK is a better, more exciting place to live in due to Urban Splash’s imaginative business strategies.”

    Jane Duncan AIA RIAS PPRIBA 2015-2017

    “Stephen Gardiner’s quote comes to mind at once when I think of Urban Splash “Good buildings come from good people, and all problems are solved by good design.”

    “A sneaky peek at the Urban Splash trophy shelf bulging with RIBA Awards surely glows with their energy, excitement and still apparently youthful enthusiasm for breaking the development mould, by brilliantly harnessing the naturally gushing lateral creativity of architects allowed off the leash.

    “They have been rightly rewarded for having mined the multifarious and often untapped opportunities in developing and restoring under loved buildings around the country, many derelict and listed. They have run towards ideas which others have dumped, and been richly rewarded with accolades for such as diverse projects as Saxton in Leeds, Park Hill in Sheffield, Royal William Yard in Plymouth, the Midland Hotel, Morecambe, Fort Dunlop, Birmingham and many Manchester and Liverpool warehouses.

    “The UK is a better, more exciting place to live in due to Urban Splash’s imaginative business strategies. At the centre of their success is, without doubt, a reliance upon brilliant architects, and the natural result is an unprecedented number of RIBA Awards.

    “Well done to Tom and Jonathan’s team. There’s more to come I have no doubt.”

    “It is this transformation of the culture of development and the quality of what has been delivered that so many other developers have tried to emulate but never quite matched.”

    Stephen R Hodder MBE PPRIBA 2013-2015

    “Smithfield Buildings was perhaps the first Urban Splash building I visited (with Kisho Kurokawa) in 1997 and I recall we both applauded what had been achieved. Imagination, good architecture and quality were refreshingly at the forefront of the building’s renewal, an approach which seems to have underpinned every Splash development since then. The development pre-empted Lord Rogers’ Towards an Urban Renaissance and the case for densification of our cities. It signalled the return to living in Manchester city centre.

    “However, for me, it is the change it has engendered in the culture of development that is most significant… the story of Urban Splash has not simply been about the developments or architecture. Very often it’s work has been with ignored, forgotten, or challenging buildings and environments...bringing an inventiveness to regeneration, whether it be with terraced housing in Salford, or the derelict Fort Dunlop in Birmingham, Park Hill in Sheffield or New Islington in Manchester.

    “Each day I stare out from my office across the Bridgewater Canal at my favourite, Timber Wharf completed in 2002, which represented a step forward in the building technology of inner-city residential development. Sixteen years on, and that same pioneering approach is seeking to redress outmoded construction methodologies with the development of ‘House’, a prefabricated flexible home.

    “It is this transformation of the culture of development and the quality of what has been delivered that so many other developers have tried to emulate but never quite matched.

    “And it all started in Manchester and Liverpool…!”

    “Their well selected name says it all - a Splash of Urban delight.”

    Angela Brady OBE, PDSA PPRIBA 2011–2013

    “Open the Urban Splash website and you will read - About Us: “In the beginning, there was no big plan, no strategy, just a wholehearted belief in cities, in design, in architecture and a desire to make things better”.

    “When Tom and Jonathan got together twenty five years ago they fused a great energy to create something from nothing - decaying sheds of a bygone age were transformed into desirable loft apartments and cool trendy workspaces, from Manchester and Liverpool to Sheffield and beyond.

    “I remember visiting some of their projects on our English Heritage Urban Panel visits and being amazed by their casual business creativity and tremendous success at creating innovative places that were a joy to visit and recommend to others as exemplar projects. They were the cool boys up North bringing vast old stone mills and warehouses back into urban everyday life.

    “Good design was always top of their agenda, rewarding them with business success over the years. They have won over 40 RIBA awards for their creative excellence. They make regeneration fun and sustainably the right thing to do, from the largest listed structure in Europe at the iconic Park Hill regenerated estate in Sheffield, to the hands on approach by home buyers getting involved in planning their own new House project, as in New Islington, Manchester.

    “Urban Splash is About ‘US’. Where they feel they ‘would like to live and want to work’, a great work ethos with still many more projects to come. Their well selected name says it all - a Splash of Urban delight.”

    “For Park Hill and many other acts of faith in investing in challenging but important buildings, I am really glad that they did make it work.”

    Ruth Reed, Hon AIA FRIAS PPRIBA 2009–2011

    “The joy of Urban Splash is how contagious their confidence is. In cities across England, they have found the buildings that are key to the identity of the place and imbued them with new life and vision, shouting out to the community that it is worth investing in, raising public confidence.

    “The Urban Splash development that is closest to my heart I have known both before and after its regeneration. Park Hill Sheffield was a no-go area in the 70’s and 80’s when I lived in the city.

    “What should have been a monument to social housing was an oppressive reminder of lack of investment and poor management hanging over the city centre. Taking huge but very successful liberties with the fabric of this listed building it now sparkles back, radiating new confidence.

    “The role that good design has played in this and the other schemes they have been responsible for has provided exemplars for the role great design plays in regeneration.

    “For Park Hill and many other acts of faith in investing in challenging but important buildings, I am really glad that they did make it work.”

    “ … Urban Splash have gone and done it at industrial scale. Again and again for 25 years!”

    Sunand Prasad PPRIBA 2007–2009

    “However much you believe in the power of architecture and design to transform places there is always a slight sense of disbelief when someone actually goes and does it. And Urban Splash have gone and done it at industrial scale. Again and again for 25 years!

    “Bloody-mindedly picking the most unpromising, most decayed land and buildings, abandoned by all the know-alls; then with wild confidence turning it into humming urbanity full of people, energy and life.

    “Urban Splash seem to transmit through the complex arts of development, the unique spirit of late 80’s Manchester, as technically proficient as stylish, brave and infectious.”

    “They may be twenty-five years old, but they were always ten years ahead of the curve.”

    Jack Pringle PPRIBA 2005–2007

    “I hadn’t really paid much attention to Urban Splash until my run up to be RIBA president in 2005-7 and then they seemed to be everywhere.

    “In my two years in office they won nearly 100 awards, using great architects in low value areas. Surely that can’t work? And for such hyper cool lads from the North they seem to be very supportive of the RIBA.

    “They were everywhere, at every party and at every after party. There were paradoxes all around. So, what was the trick?

    “The “trick” was and is a great partnership, a visionary partnership, between Tom Bloxham, a natural and serial entrepreneur and Jonathan Falkingham, an architect who can see which way is up. They built their business from the ground up and didn’t let early set-backs deter them.

    “With huge energy and foresight they bought properties for “less than the price of a carpet” and instead of demolishing them as others would have – they turned them into cool lofts and workplaces, establishing a superb company.

    “They may be twenty-five years old, but they were always ten years ahead of the curve. Their use of top architects, because only they could get the best out of challenging low-budget projects, has been very shrewd.

    “Urban Splash or Urban Legend? Here’s to the next 25.”

    “If anything makes one believe in the art of the impossible it is the improbable story of these two rock stars of urban regeneration who then had the cheek to invade the South!”

    George Ferguson CBE PPRIBA 2003–2005

    “Of course, it will never work.

    “A couple of mad-hat dreamers building a mould breaking design-led property empire, ignoring all good advice from surveyors and agents?

    “What a farcical notion that they can change the way we live in our cities by gutting and stuffing old industrial buildings and sites that no-one else would touch - and in our challenged Northern cities too.

    “If anything makes one believe in the art of the impossible it is the improbable story of these two rock stars of urban regeneration who then had the cheek to invade the South!

    “It has been a roller-coaster 25 years of high design, demonstrating that dogged determination, and wild imagination, combined with some of the best architecture in the UK, is a very potent mix - but of course it will never work!”

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