The power of history over future master planning


Princesshay mixed use and open public space with Exeter Cathedral in background ( Architects:Chapman Taylor)

The power of historic landmarks to dictate future master planning is a topic we will be discussing at the Architectural Association on March 25.

At our recent roundtable on cultural infrastructure in cities, Guardian journalist Sir Simon Jenkins voiced his understanding of the value of historic buildings and streets to the wellbeing of people. He stated: 'In any city in the world now the old bits of the city are popular...cathedrals are fantastically popular, castles are popular, modern churches are not. If you want to draw people in to anything like a collection or museum start with what you have. I have been involved in the project to relocate the Museum of London to Smithfield Market. The key is not to destroy Smithfield Market as it will be the historic market buildings that draw people to the new museum, and not the other way round.'

The newly published 'Living with Beauty' report from the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission, which includes 45 policy propositions, puts value on improving architectural education stating that in future students should be instructed in 'the art of integrating new buildings into the historic fabric of a settlement'.

Last week, architect Tim Partington from Chapman Taylor (the architects behind the successful Princesshay development close to Exeter Cathedral) went further to explain that in many of our cities and towns, the medieval street pattern has been destroyed by industrial activity, war-time bombing and post-war road development and it is now important to put some of this history back to create a sense of place.

Cullinan's Peter Inglis will be speaking about the master planning for Bristol's Harbourside at our March forum (completed for Crest Nicholson in 2015) and in many ways the re-development of this industrial site, tells this story of destruction but also restoration. Public consultation including the voice of the Cathedral was listened to in developing the new plan.

The master plan, covering seven hectares, has transformed a brownfield site of former docks, railway goods depot and industrial activity into new places to live, work and relax. It centres on Canon's Marsh which lies at the heart of the city beside a bend in the historic Floating Harbour and is overlooked by Bristol Cathedral and the heights of Clifton. The site contaminated by gas works had lain derelict for some thirty years before regeneration.

The spatial framework created by the master plan locks Canon's Marsh back into the rest of Bristol, extending 'Brunel Mile' - a public walkway running from Bristol Temple Meads station to the SS Great Britain. Another feature of the master plan is Harbour Square where a range of activities including art performances, markets, the Harbourside Festival and alfresco dining all take place.

Join us for this important forum that attempts to define the leading features of sustainable master planning our future cities.

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