top of page

'UK Innovation Cities' report from Bristol part two

Above: Sheppard Robson Partner Dan Burr talking at the forum on plans for mixed-use and hospitality design in Bristol

In the second part of Future Cities Forum's discussion event at Bristol City Hall this January, contributors tackled the important topics of future investment for social equity, the regeneration of Temple Quarter as a new gateway to the city, retrofitting former office buildings, mixed-use and hotel development and the power of well-designed place-making for city dwellers and visitors.

Those contributing alongside the Mayor of Bristol Marvin Rees included Sheppard Robson Partner, Dan Burr; BDP's Lead Architect for the University of Bristol Dental Campus; Joseph Brent, BDP's Teresa Tirado, Avison Young's Chair Jo Davis, Partner and Vice Chair at Deloitte, Dave Tansley, and Womble Bond Dickinson Partner, Andrew Harding.

Sheppard Robson has strong experience in both science developments in the UK and also hospitality and mixed-used. Dan Burr spoke at the forum on the importance of careful design for the new area of Temple Quarter, an important gateway into the city, and how to bring people back to live in the city centre, whilst respecting heritage and green space.

Dan commented:

'As a firm we have been involved across the UK in master-planning and mixed-use with science buildings in Cambridge and central London and now Temple Quay where we need to attract international talent. We are thinking about the ecosystem in Bristol and the modern interpretation of place-making. What do people want in these environments? There is a tension between the need to densify and create those glimpsed views of heritage and interesting streetscapes, as well as roof terraces for roofscapes.

'We are looking at designing a hotel and Build to Rent residential, but it is also important to consider renewing buildings from the 1980's for modern use. Scientists moving into Temple Quarter will want all the amenities of the city and local people want to feel these quarters are porous and they can benefit from what's on offer.'

Dan has designed a new hotel in the City of London which could be a model for Bristol, offering ground floor meeting spaces and podcast studios for non-hotel users:

'During the pandemic in the City of London, small businesses went bust and there was a requirement to bring in more people to live and make culture a part of it, and by that I mean culture for everyone. We designed the hotel 'Boundary House' with podcast studios on the ground floor for ordinary people to use. This is the future way to enrich buildings and accommodate diverse uses.'

Above: Boundary House, City of London, near Fenchurch Street Station - courtesy Sheppard Robson

The design of Boundary House looks to add a new social focus to the area, embodying the aspiration of the ‘Destination City’ vision to drive forward the recovery from the pandemic and increase its appeal to new and existing audiences. The project builds on this ambition by taking a constrained infill site and adding a mix of leisure, entertainment, cultural and educational spaces.

This range of uses are brought together on the lower ground floors, which have been created through in-depth consultation with local stakeholders, producers, and education organisations. This social “anchor” for the area moves past the familiar notions of hotel reception, creating flexible spaces and studios available to hotel guests, local organisations and the general public to book.

The spaces open to the community include 456m2 of workspace that is focused on education, skills and training, with the project making several commitments to the community, including: free meeting rooms for students and free room hire for the wider community; discounted podcast studio time; and hospitality-focused apprenticeship schemes to support the City Fringe Opportunity Area.

Above: CGI of interior of the University of Bristol's new dental school in central Bristol (designed by BDP)

It is increasingly important for the City of Bristol to remodel older office buildings to preserve a positive function and open up opportunities for new occupants. Architecture firm, BDP has been reshaping an office block into a new dental school for the University of Bristol.

The project creates a new undergraduate dental school facility, with 7,300sqm school containing clinical space for 119 dental chairs, supporting equipment, services and clinical fit-out, clinical lab support areas, teaching and tutorial space, office space, and ancillary space such as showers, changing rooms, breakout rooms, and kitchenettes.

Joseph Brent described how the project came about:

'The University of Bristol was experiencing healthy competition from the University of Plymouth on facilities to bring in good students. There was a search around Bristol for an existing building to convert and an office building was found that could be retrofitted sustainably to find another 50 years of life. The selection of the site was key. It had to be in close proximity to the centre and existing campuses. It also had to be made into somewhere were people were going to enjoy working.'

Joseph's colleague, Teresa Tirado added:

'The place-making around higher education is so important. Innovation is changing the way we work and we have to create social spaces where people can bump into each other and place-making has a strong part to play in that. When designing buildings we cannot lose sight of what those buildings do to a city, what impact they have, as well as the spaces in between buildings, now things are closely clustered with servicing needs too.'

BDP says that there is no one-size-fits-all solution when one works with an existing building and a complex brief in the city centre. A key aspect of site selection was to find a location which would help with the re-connection to local communities and continue to provide the NHS service locally. BDP has also recently completed the concept design of the relocation of the Glenside Campus to Frenchay for the School of UWE (University of the West of England) Health and Social Wellbeing, with a strong focus on promoting innovation and strengthening relationships between higher education and healthcare. Key to the success of these projects has been a holistic approach to place management and a well-informed and robust technical brief, putting the user at the centre, and working with the client to build on the links with the community and the NHS.

Joseph and Teresa went on to state:

'Innovation thrives on knowledge sharing and collaboration. For these projects, the spaces we designed needed to cater for the formal and informal interaction of academia, healthcare and industry. Buildings need to fulfil different requirements and multiple end users; hence, flexibility is key.

'There are opportunities to improve innovation economy in the South West by integrating the right operators into development discussions in the city centre. Often, they are not involved or understood, and we could promote the right innovation uses to improve life in these cities.

'Architects, planners and master-planners have an important role in looking at cities in a holistic way, to avoid piecemeal development and allow future clustering. Also, we need to look at how speculative space can be delivered in city centres to support the innovation economy at different stages of the life cycle as it becomes available in the city (repurposing vacant retail or office space and considering how it may expand in the surrounding units/assets, like we have done locally with the Dental School in Bristol or the RIBAJ School competition in Exeter where we repurposed vacant retail space in the city centre). Innovation projects at varying scales have the potential to be a powerful tool in supporting town centre regeneration, whether that is through large-scale projects (innovation districts) or by repurposing town centre buildings in suitable locations.'

Above: skate-boarding at Lloyds Amphitheatre Bristol (image courtesy )

Jo Davis, Chair at Avison Young, joined the debate to take up the important point of social equity in 'place-making':

'I hear about the term place-making all the time and we used to talk about social mobility all the time, but for me now thinking about important new buildings in Bristol like the YTL Arena, it is all about 'adjacencies'. What do I mean by that? It about the positive spin-offs from new buildings and it's all about people. The YTL Arena has created a place where the University will also be able to come into. Good investment in buildings create places where people want to live. Lloyds Amphitheatre for example has allowed skate borders to thrive in that place. Building and place-making must have an impact on social issues. We need more apprenticeships and those students staying on in the city. We need to think about regeneration in terms of that.'

Above: Temple Quay Bristol panorama (copyright Chris Bahn)

The 'golden thread of finance' was a topic that Dave Tansley, Partner at Deloitte brought up during the discussion:

'I speak as an engineer and say that we are living in a complex system of systems and we need to think about how we create liveable places that are human and also the need for a flourishing industrial base. In addition we need to create meaningful work and I am talking about bus drivers and community workers, not just astrophysicists. One of the things that glues all this together is the finance system. There is not enough capital liquidity in it and that is the 'golden thread'. We need banks now to see for instance mortgage loans being part of an investment in that housing's heat store, not just the home itself. So this idea changes the whole cost of of other commercial opportunities and the nature of risk.

'In creating a science park we need to think first where the workers are going to come from and create a clean transport system from the start. The question is also what is in it for ordinary people? We need to design something that is world class but we also thinking about the ripple effect of new businesses that could spin out of it. We need to think holistically from day zero.

'Human places tend to have happier people in them who are more productive. We need to turn a sterile science building into something that ordinary people can relate to and this will trickle out into a wider economy where diverse voices will have some sense of agency. There needs to be a social licence. Everyone should have a voice and their own way of internalising investment that will impact their lives. Bristol is already quite good at that.'

Above: Harbourside view Bristol, courtesy of Cullinan

Andrew Harding, Partner at Womble Bond Dickinson took the debate further by considering that the international impact of the new science district, Temple Quarter:

'Visibility through this gateway is the key to changing the city's image and what the city is becoming. This science and tech quarter is very important to the city and it is good to see green credentials coming through and how the city can change. These are not easy development sites, right up against the railway.

'It is the product of the council, university of Bristol, Homes England and Network Rail all coming together with the ambition to change the face of the city. It engenders confidence and a greater willingness for further investment. There is already appetite for buying up edges of land around the city for investment and this has been an area that the city has struggled with. Where the council has been savvy has been with the agenda of social value, but developers still need to continue to talk to their local communities.

'Accommodation is needed in the centres of both Bristol and Plymouth and we need to bring people in with the attraction of more hotels, food and beverage. Public authorities want as much affordable housing as possible as opposed to developers who see it as less profitable. But we need affordable housing for those in less-well paid jobs and create a diversity of job interests in the area, where micro industries can thrive.'

The Mayor of Bristol, Marvin Rees, concluded the discussion with a couple of warnings. The first that the bus system is not resilient in Bristol and a mass transit system is very much required. The second over housing and the ability of purchasing power of ordinary people, which he said was disappearing. Inclusion is key he said and if it is not attended to it will harm the fabric of the city and in the long term cost money. Best practice he stated does cost money and at the same time people want to protect land for nature as well as stop tall buildings in the city with the belief that it will destroy the sky line. However, he feels this is a mistake and will stop the city moving forward.

Future Cities Forum wants to thank all our contributors for taking part in this important South West debate on 'UK Innovation Cities' and to the Mayor for hosting us all in the Hannover Room at City Hall.

Below: Bristol City Hall and College Green (Courtesy Bristol City Council)


Recent Posts
bottom of page