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Future Cities Forum celebrates female architect Kirsten Lees

On International Women's Day, we have chosen to feature the architect in charge of creating the rugby arena within the UNESCO heritage site of Bath, Kirsten Lees.

Kirsten, who studied at the Mackintosh School of Architecture, Glasgow University was elected as Managing Partner for Grimshaw's London office in 2019 for a three year term. Before joining Grimshaw she worked at Michael Wilford and Associates on projects including the Lowry Centre at Salford and the Tate in the North, and before that at the Barcelona practice Bach y Mora Arquitectes.

Kirsten is in charge of a raft of international projects including a new grandstand for the Curragh race course in Ireland and the recently completed Arter contemporary art museum (below) in Istanbul. The art museum was funded by a family foundation - the Vehbi Koc Foundation - and the Grimshaw design creates an 18,000 square meter show case for its diverse collection.

The museum has a series of closely linked spaces for film, video, music, dance, literature and traditional arts. The design uses large picture windows as a way of opening the building to the street and the wider Dolapdere district. In the UK Kirsten has led teams on the master plan for the 'home of lawn tennis' Wimbledon, the master plan for the Gilston Park Estate in Hertfordshire (with MICA Architects), Didcot Garden Town, and the Hammersmith town centre regeneration programme.

Kirsten leads a team from Grimshaw working on the new stadium for Bath Rugby - where a revised plan was submitted earlier this year - and a master plan to open up the riverside for the city and community. The existing stadium's pitch is at risk from flooding and the club spends a large proportion of profits on temporary seating each season. Kirsten's team has proposed raising the pitch and putting a car park underneath.

Bath which plays in the English Premier League is one of the oldest rugby union clubs in the country, dating back to 1865. It has a central city location, next to the River Avon, within the City of Bath UNESCO heritage site boundary. Grimshaw says it is vital to design a stadium in a city-wide context, so that the local community will benefit from the restoration of the riverside and the additional facilities that the project will bring. Bath Rugby has the particular challenges of development on a UNESCO World Heritage site, but shares many of the themes facing inner city sports clubs.

Chief Executive Tarquin McDonald who joined an earlier Future Cities Forum, said:

'We started (our new stadium plan) not just with a vision but with a purpose. We want to create a space for everyone, and to bring the riverside public spaces and connection to life. I was interested in the future high streets discussion you ran because many of those themes are relevant to us.

'We have chosen to be a citizen in the centre of the city, rather than move out, so how can we align what we do with local needs? It's not just about profit, but it's about connecting with parts of the community which do need help and surprisingly there is quite a lot of youth poverty, and those who struggle in mainstream education, in Bath. All of this has to be reflected in the design choices we make.'

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