In January the University held an interdisciplinary project across different faculty’s within the school. Landscape Architecture, Architecture, Urban Planning and Project Management students were divided into groups to work on a new, innovative design for the Tetley Brewery site in the southbank area of Leeds. The aim was to experience working in a design team with people from different backgrounds and come together to create an iconic new space within the city that would attract more users to this lacking space and act as a catalyst for regeneration.
Unfortunately I could only attend the first day of the two day, intensive project and I can’t say I found the experience particularly enjoyable. Their were only two Landscape Architecture students within our group including myself and the rest were Project Managers and Architects so we were rather out numbered. After an initial site visit to the Brewery we began brain storming ideas and I was quite surprised at many of the suggestions from the other group members who seemed to be leading the project.
My initial response to the site was to create a beautiful network of gardens with an iconic, and ultra-modern glass house situated on site. Sculpture would feature heavily throughout the park and changing exhibitions would take place attracting a regular flow of people that would repeat visit. I had tried to think what our city was lacking and instantly thought of Sheffield’s beautiful Winter Garden and high quality connected green spaces. Within Leeds their is barely any accessible or contemporary parks within it’s center and is crying out for more green space. Other members of the group however, suggested a monstrous go-cart track to run the entire circumference of the site, a 600m long zip wire that would stretch along the central line of the space, vertical, urban farming, art gallery and a new 60m tower in which people could experience indoor skydiving. It was a bit of a disaster and all the themes didn’t marry up at all.
The problem with the group was that instead of thinking outside the box they just weren’t thinking. Many of the suggestion would never get planning permission in a million years, with the highly important and historical site situated among many recently built accommodation blocks and hotels. It was also frustrating that the design was being led by specific details (such as the zipwire) and an overall design strategy and vision was completely lost. What was very interesting was that instead of people focusing on their area of expertise they kept darting from one area to another and their seemed to be no control or order to the design process.
With only being able to attend one day I didn’t feel I could step in and voice my opinions strongly enough. The group would have had to carry on working the following day and didn’t feel I had the right to oppose their decisions. I often find it hard to be direct with people when first meeting them and should have tried to explain my thinking far more strongly. It was a great dissapointment as it could have been a really valuable experience but it did rather feel like I was back in primary school and had been asked to design my dream garden. At the time I was also working on the final stages of the St Gemma’s Hospice project with five other members and was really enjoying working in a design team. Within this project I felt that my group skills had really developed and we had formed a good working relationship so that opposing opinions could be discussed in a healthy way that would result in the best design outcome to take place. It is a pity I couldn’t apply these skills within this project and should have been more confident in my own design ideas.
The feedback I heard from the second day was that some of the groups had produced really high quality work within such a short space of time. Some exciting and innovative designs had been created and excellent visuals produced. I did learn something from the project. It was a great example of how not to go about starting a large scale urban project and that if you don’t speak up you’re own ideas will never be implemented. It was also valuable to go to the Tetley Brewery site and gather source material as we are now designing this site within our final University project so now I will be able to explore my concept further.