US30 - Ahead of the curve
We are grateful to RIBA President Simon Allford, who recently wrote this article ahead of our 30th anniversary.
In his piece, Simon shared his views on our work and our commitment to “live by design”. His views echo the comments of former RIBA Presidents who’ve spoken about our work over the years. Today, we’re sharing some of their thoughts.
George Ferguson CBE PPRIBA
RIBA President 2003 - 2005
“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, 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!”
Sunand Prasad PPRIBA
RIBA President 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.
“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.”
Ruth Reed PPRIBA
RIBA President 2009 - 2011
“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.”
Jack Pringle PPRIBA
RIBA President 2005 - 2007
“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 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.”
Ben Derbyshire PRIBA Dip Arch Cantab RIBARIBA President 2017 - 2019
“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…
“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.”
Angela Brady OBE, PDSA PPRIBA
RIBA President 2011 - 2013
“Their well selected name says it all - a Splash of Urban delight”
“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.
“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.”
Stephen Hodder MBE PPRIBA
RIBA President 2013 - 2015
“Smithﬁeld Buildings was perhaps the ﬁrst Urban Splash building I visited 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 signaled 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.
“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…!”
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