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Cultural Cities and eco-tourism 2022 - Part 2

Eden Project North - Morecambe Bay, Lancashire (Grimshaw)

Our forum 'Cultural Cities 2022'' looked at the growth of eco-tourism and the value to residents as well as visitors in UK towns and cities. One project discussed was Grimshaw's Eden North, situated at Morecambe Bay. Architectural firm Partner, Jolyon Brewis, who led on the first Eden project in Cornwall described how in his view England's seaside towns have suffered for decades from lack of investment:

'Investment should give towns renewed hope and prosperity. Tourism to those places should be part of their economy. It wasn't by accident that those seaside towns attracted visitors in the first place because they had natural assets but today some of the footfall has gone and they need to be cared for. They can have a new life but they do need good facilities.'

'It is possible to create new destinations in places that didn't have them before. The Eden project in Cornwall had two million visitors in the first year and it has settled to about a million or more now on a regular basis. It wasn't a popular destination, but it is now.

'We are developing a number of Eden projects in different places around the UK with a different angle for each on connecting people to landscape. We, as humans, rely on plants and that is the educational purpose of Eden in Cornwall. In Morecambe the accent is more on health and wellbeing. Exhibits bring to life how our health is improved by the understanding of the natural world around us.'

The urban context of the London Wall West Project (Contemporary Art Society) with the new site for The Museum of London

Levelling up investment is a core priority for the UK government, but the Mayor of London is concerned that the cultural life of the capital is also tended to. He has often spoken of the value of culture to not only London's economy, but how that feeds the rest of the UK. The Cultural Mile in the City of London is seen as an opportunity to boost visitors to this area of the capital and connect with a developing cultural quarter in east London.

Re-introducing green spaces around the existing Museum of London is being prioritised because of fears that when the museum re-locates to Smithfield, it is felt that it might leave a dearth of culture in its wake. London Wall West is a project being led by the Contemporary Arts Society with the intention to create outside spaces where culture can be 'seen to be made'.

Art Producer, Megan O'Shea of the Contemporary Arts Society (who is the lead for London Wall west) explained:

'London Wall West is part of the Cultural Mile. It is sited where the current Museum of London stands and we are concerned about a loss of cultural content when the museum leaves to go to Smithfield. There was a plan for a centre of music to replace the existing museum next to the Barbican but that has been lost through the pandemic. Therefore you have to question what happens to the area. We believe a distinct character for this place can be formed and in the process a meaningful gateway to the Cultural Mile. We want it to form a connection to other places. The City has a lot of cultural content but it is often held within 'fortresses'. We want to help spill that content from inside out and for a range of audiences.

'We want to see how culture and commerce can intersect. The City is known as the Square Mile but we want to transform understanding and these spaces could do that if properly integrated. We don't just want some nice new sculptures in new places but we want areas where culture can be seen to be made.'

The traffic dominated Strand, near Somerset House, looking east to Mary-le-Strand, before public realm interventions (LDA Design)

Cannon Ivers, Director at LDA Design, echoed Meghan's thoughts when talking about the development of the Strand/Aldwych project which he is leading. Was he worried that with people's reluctance to return to work, that this new piece of public realm would remain deserted when complete?

'I am deeply excited because by this time next year the public will be able to walk through public realm in this area which has for a very long time been a vehicular route from St Paul's to Westminster Abbey. It will be a place where everyone can mingle', he said.

The Strand, after new public realm construction (CGI from LDA Design)

'The church of St Mary Le Strand which stands at one end of the area has been isolated by traffic for 150 years but not anymore as two-way traffic now flows around the Aldwych.

'Bush House, King's College London and Somerset House line the route and then there are the museums and theatre land nearby The footfall is already amazing, and it is buzzing with students - this project will be a massive boost to the area. Historically with all the traffic it was such a hostile area but now people will be able to stop outside, eat lunch and just relax.

'It will also be an area where art is made not displayed with creativity brought to life and now those institutions that surround it can experiment with just that. It was a major moment when traffic was stopped passing through and that heralded our skate board area which was built by the skaters themselves and everyone could watch that creativity taking place', he concluded.

Part of the gardens at the Museum of the Home, Hackney, London (Wright & Wright Architects)

'The loss of biodiversity (in the UK) has presented physical, mental and wellbeing issues' commented architect Ronan Morris from Wright & Wright Architects, who joined the conversation, to speak about the importance of the gardens at the Museum of the Home in East London:

'The museum has great exhibitions but equally important are the outside spaces. It has one of the largest green spaces in Hackney, showing the history of British gardens from Tudor times right up to the modern green roof of today. The gardens can be an educational experience as well as place to rest and enjoy and we chose to retrofit the Grade I building, not demolish it, with two new pavilion buildings bookending the existing gardens.

'The Studio Pavilion we have designed is a multi functional space and acts as a visual extension of the garden. We planted a green roof which does not need much water and represents part of the 21st century garden that enhances biodiversity across the site.'

Join Future Cities Forum throughout 2022 for more 'Cultural Cities' discussions.


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