Top image: Art Gene with architects Daniel Mallo and Armelle Tardiveau: Art Gene Design Charrette for final year architecture students at the University of Newcastle, Sandscale Haws National Nature Reserve site visit, 2009

Introduction

We first met Daniel Mallo and Armelle Tardiveau; e.c. Architects following their successful application to participate in Art Gene’s Re-Visioning Utopia Charrette in 2009. Since then they have delivered two projects in collaboration with Art Gene.

The first was a charrette for their final year architecture students at the University of Newcastle, which focussed on the regeneration of Barrow. The charrette formed the basis of a four week project which resulted in a pamphlet (download below) which documented the students’ researches and project proposals relating primarily to the regeneration of typical Barrow town centre terraced housing, albeit terraced housing within a town surrounded by sand dune covered islands, Nationally recognised coastal Nature Reserves, SSSI’s and RAMSAR sites.

Many thanks to Daniel Mallo and Armelle Tardiveau for proposing this project to us following our collective Re-Visioning Utopia Charrette. We hope the publication the students produced out of their charrette will help spread the word about alternative approaches in design development to a new generation of architects who will use them in the places they most need to be employed.

The second was a participative design for Pennington County Primary School funded by Creative Partnerships Cumbria (2010) Details of the project are shown below including a series of nine downloadable files produced by e.c. exploring the participative process of design and delivery.

e.c. architects
Daniel Mallo (Spain)
Armelle Tardiveau (France)
Biography

Armelle Tardiveau and Daniel Mallo are architects and lecturers at the School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape, Newcastle University.

Armelle is French and trained at London Metropolitan University and ETH Zürich. Prior to becoming an architect, she was an editor in architecture for Artemis London and Actar publishers in Barcelona.

Daniel is Spanish. After graduating in Madrid, he collaborated with Florian Beigel in London and Herzog & de Meuron in Basel.

They founded ec-architects in 2004 focusing primarily on architecture as an enabling tool: mobilising users in defining a brief and informing the design, as well as steering dialogue and social dynamics. The enabling philosophy also consists of working with time, and offering platforms that allow spatial flexibility and capacity for change.

The practice is deeply engaged in material research and challenges the constraints of budget limitation as a creative opportunity to work with alternative, low-cost and off-the-shelf materials whilst promoting self-built construction methods and an environmentally embedded approach in the design process.

Recent engagement projects include a participative urban proposal for temporary community use in Barrow-in-Furness (Cumbria) funded by West Lake Renaissance (2009), a participative design for Pennington CoE Primary School (Cumbria) funded by Creative Partnerships (2010) and a research project focusing on a community led process for the activation of an unused area in between social housing blocks in Gateshead (Tyne & Wear), funded by SPINDUS, KU Leuven (2011).

Image above: Evaluation Session, Architecture Students’ Charette, around Stuart Bastik’s Operations Table, in the Art Gene Gallery

Outside In – Architecture Students’ Charrette

Lecturers: Armelle Tardiveau, Daniel Mallo with
Mari Motomura, architect (Japan) and Stuart Bastik and
Maddi Nicholson, artists co-founders Art Gene (UK)

Outside In is a four week project that final year architecture students at Newcastle University (2009-10) undertook in the North Central District neighbourhood in Barrow-in-Furness. North Central is one of thirteen Electoral Wards in the Borough of Barrow-in-Furness. The project aims were to:

(a) write a design brief developed from a dialogue with community members;
(b) map observations and create analytic drawings of the social as well as physical reality;
(c) engage with public domain and spatially articulate a ‘collective platform’ (i.e. a place for exchange). The pamphlet which can be downloaded below assembles the students’ research, observations, encounters, conversations, design approaches and proposals.

The project emerged following the participation of Daniel Mallo and Armelle Tardiveau (architects and lecturers at Newcastle University) in Art Gene‘s ‘Re-Visioning Utopia’; a charrette for professional artists, architects and academics. The area of study and intervention for the project was Barrow’s North Central Area.

The urban fabric is primarily composed of two storey Victorian terraced houses that do not meet current health and safety regulations due to their poor construction.

Process, Action and Unmanageable Democracy

Targeted towns and cities in Britain have received governmental funds to engage with a regeneration process of the decaying built (and social?) fabric. The North Central District, Barrow in Furness, Cumbria, the town located at the so-called ‘end of the longest cul-de-sac in Britain’, has been at the heart of such environmental and societal strategies. Through the Housing Market Renewal strategy, Barrow has opted for a Compulsory Purchase Order and ultimately demolition of the decaying housing stock targeted. Although the town is confident that the housing market will recover promptly from recession, the sites are currently vacant or dormant if planned for demolition. The temporary landscape the community is facing daily consists of a series of rubble sites and boarded-up houses. The community appears to feel disempowered and uncertain as to what decisions are being made for them; what transformation will occur? Will there be a solution imposed on them or will they be able to negotiate options with the actors concerned? Is a gentrification process under way, bringing new housing, and a new community? How about collective space for the existing community? The following projects demonstrate the necessitåy and possibility of taking immediate action. The Meantime is the time span, between now and an uncertain future that most projects have engaged with. The area is densely built and the community is strong, present, proud and committed, yet heterogeneous in its experience of the neighbourhood, its projection and desires.

this feeling of crisis and to follow these new connections, another notion of the social has to be devised. It has to be much wider that what is usually called by that name, yet strictly limited to the tracing of new associations and to the designing of their assemblages. Participation in the design and the shaping of these spaces at the heart of the urban and civic life is key to their success.‘Bringing Brilliance to Barrow’ could begin by holding back top down approaches for the definition of the public realm; it could envisage collective spaces that allow for dissensus (and consensus), create mechanisms whereby citizens can engage with each other, share experience, desires and deepen their sense community. Barrow in Furness, although at the end of the longest cul-de-sac in Britain, could potentially act as a lighthouse for good government and innovative engagement.
Daniel Mallo and Armelle Tardiveau

‘I have been fascinated to see the results of the students ‘encounters’ presented in this publication. These have made a valuable contribution to Art Gene’s ongoing research and we look forward to the possibility of continued contact with Newcastle University, School of Architecture, in future years. Their work is testimony to the value of an encounter-based approach, which is central to Art Gene’s research methodology: I hope students will continue to employ this methodology in their future lives and careers.’

Stuart Bastik, Artist Co-Founder Art Gene

‘Landscapes are always perceived in a particular way at a particular time. Place,space and landscape are not givens, but developed through practices and grasped discursively*. They can be mobilised, and in that mobilisation become productive. Direct encounters enable a negotiation of relations. Relations between disciplines, but also relations between ‘researcher’ and researched’. *Discursive: fluent and expansive rather than formulaic and abbreviated.’

Alison Hand, Art Gene Board of Trustees

Our thanks go to Mari Motomura (architect), Stuart Bastik and Maddi Nicholson (artists, Art Gene), Lowri Bond (Projects Officer at Northern Architecture) who have supported this project and inspired the students.

Thank you as well to the people of Barrow who took the time to talk to the students and provided stories and experiences that were essential to the understanding of the area. These include community members such as Mrs. Hunt (Resident), Jen (Resident), Nicky Brewerton (Head of Infant School), Graham Bromley (Green Heart Den), Paul and Lorraine Bibby (former Residents and Leaders of Hindpool Youth Club) and Carol Westall (Community Police), as well as Borough Council Officers Steve Robson (Neighbourhood Team), Keith Johnson (Community Services) and Val Holden (Regeneration), Doe Brannon (Arts Development) and Andy High (Neighbourhood Warden) Chris Jones, (Housing Renewal) for facilitating information.

Acknowledgments to Grit & Pearl for managing financial support by Barrow Regeneration through the – Regeneration by Design Project.

Learning Den – Pennington County Primary School
Background

Lecturers: Armelle Tardiveau, Daniel Mallo with
Mari Motomura, architect (Japan) and Stuart Bastik and
Maddi Nicholson, artists co-founders Art Gene (UK)

Background Maddi Nicholson, Artist and co-Founder Director of Art Gene was appointed by Creative Partnerships, Cumbria to lead on work with a series of schools across the County to develop their outdoor spaces as creative learning resources.

Maddi had for some time been working with staff at Pennington County Primary School developing the concepts for an ‘outdoor’ learning den as a facility through which to explore different types of sensory learning with the children.

This work built on Maddi’s many years of experience of working within educational contexts nationally including the Building Schools for the Future Programme, the Nicholson Bastik ‘Kid Pod’ Outdoor Classroom hailed by OFSTED as ‘demonstrating the way forward’ and earlier projects with Creative Partnerships inc Ormsgill Outdoors which was highly praised and resulted in an invitation to speak at the Labour Party Conference
‘Ormsgill Outdoors’ and ‘Kid Pod’ see Nicholson Bastik page (here)

Following interviews with a number of artists and architects e.c. were appointed to lead on the delivery of the learning den with Maddi’s continued collaborative support . Daniel and Armelle’s practice, which involves an in-depth process of consultation and collaboration was of particular interest as it mirrored something of Maddi‘s approach in developing the project with the school. e.c. worked with the children as ‘the client’ and as fellow designers in the creation of exploratory models and drawings. They and their parents were later directly involved in the construction of the space.

The brief for this project, developed by Maddi Nicholson with the staff consisted of conceiving space or spaces that would enhance different learning styles, stimulating the use of the school field, and engaging the whole school community including children, teaching staff, and parents in the design process.

Activities with the children were articulated addressing their abilities and desire in learning. The chief objective of the first phase was to enable familiarisation with their own school environment (the field and beyond the rural landscape), with the discipline of architecture and its related basic vocabulary and with the creation of space through stories, drawings and models that would inform the brief.

Children designed dens for fictional characters, which allowed them to think spatially and beyond the normal and conventional by doing so they informed the brief writing. Teachers used these activities as a platform to address the required curriculum in alternative and fun way. Children and teachers organised a picnic to celebrate the potential space and activities for the design of the den. This event catalysed the desire for parents to engage. Parents stated their skills, donate money, materials and time.

This new structure is the result of a strong desire from all actors (staff, children and parents) and their full participation. The den consists of a main space and 3 contiguous outdoor spaces (lunch, stage and allotment pads) creating a variety of learning spaces within and around the den. It can house up to 30 children and is used throughout the year even though it is not serviced.

The deputy head of the school stated in the concluding report that ‘the project has provided the potential for staff to think differently about creative active and reflective learning, children were involved as co-constructors of their learning throughout the design and construction. The den is a platform for fun, engagement and motivation for all.’ e.c. architects Client:
Creative Partnership Programme Location:
Pennington CoE Primary School, Pennington, Cumbria
Total floor area: 60 m2 Budget: £5’094.9 Status: built

External Links

ec-architects

 

Image below: e.c. architects, Model for Learning Den, later exhibited in Art Gene’s Your Future Needs You exhibition