A giant game of pass the parcel
This year, Urban Splash celebrates 25 years of transforming towns and cities around the country. To celebrate, RIBA is hosting an exhibition in Liverpool, exploring our RIBA Award winning projects in the context they were created – and against the specific challenges and opportunities of the day.
This new blog series celebrates the occasion, with a collection of musings from our founders Tom Bloxham MBE and Jonathan Falkingham MBE.
In this second blog, Jonathan reflects back to a the excitement in redeveloping buildings…
Challenging buildings come in all shapes and sizes, but most have simply been caught out by history - buildings whose purpose, location or rationale has been superseded.
What’s left behind is a series of beautiful features, a raw fabric which we’ve used as a framework in which to create spaces for contemporary uses.
Each building came with its own unique challenge, at Park Hill for example in Sheffield, we were faced with an alternative Listed building, a concrete structure – Brutalist in design – which needed external works, but within strict English Heritage guidelines. The concrete needed cleaning but without losing any of the preserved aesthetic already in place.
Regardless of those challenges, the excitement of first approaching a structure and finding out what lies beneath never wanes.
My first taste of this was at Smithfield Buildings in Manchester. We went into the scheme and at first didn’t know there was an atrium. The strip out was like a giant game of pass the parcel, unwrapping a century of shop fits, one on top of the other, to reveal the original Victorian grandeur.
There, as at all of our schemes, the driver was to do interesting things, and do them well, not necessarily to do more or bigger. But our growing experience and scale increasingly allowed us to apply our ideas and ambitions and skills to larger and more complex projects, and Smithfield was a step up.
We’ve continued to do that, moving from individual buildings to city blocks to whole neighbourhoods – the next generation of new towns? We’d love to do that.
For the full story of what happened next, head to the free exhibition. It’s open now until 16th June.