Charrette – Re-Visioning Utopia Participants Thoughts, Responses & Testimonials
Team One

Sophia Lycouris: Artist/Academic/Dance/Choreography(Greece/UK)
Kenji Sherma: Architect/Planner (UK)
Lowri Bond: Artist/Projects Officer: Northern Architecture) (UK)
Carlos Lopez Galvez: Architect and Academic/Institute of Historical Research (Colombia/UK)
Tom Lonsdale: Chartered Landscape Architect/Placecraft/Places Matter (UK)
Stuart Bastik: Artist/founder Director: Art Gene (UK)

Kenji Sherma

…central theme that the re-visioning of Utopia would involve a community and ‘place’ being given the means to look at itself as a means of finding how to relate to the world around be it economically, culturally or socially.

Dear all,
My apologies for replying so late.

What I got out of the weekend:

  • The weekend taught me much about what we collectively thought about improvement of place. Though we had many differing views and approaches I felt that these all surrounded a central theme that the re visioning of Utopia would involve a community and ‘place’ being given the means to look at itself as a means of finding how to relate to the world around be it economically, culturally or socially.
  • Such a deep study process that looked at “place” should find the foundations inherent in “place” that would create a strong, slow, deeply engrained and truly regenerative transformation avoiding the narrow-minded short-termism and intellectual laziness inherent in the Instamatic RegenaShed approach to urban improvement strategies.
  • Outside agencies are not necessary. That this was something we learnt in Barrow and applied to Barrow does not, in my mind, preclude such a conclusion being reached or applied in other places. Barrow was, perhaps, an excellent foil for the development of this idea.
  • Wildly differing creative approaches and disciplines when applied to a question strengthen and inform each other. Training in one particular discipline does not make it any less suitable when applied outside of that sector.
  • As an undercover “Other” I can vouch for the usefulness of bringing local authorities and others into the studio process.  We should remember that we are the very lucky few who have experienced such a way of thinking and working for a sustained period.  The last time someone may have been allowed the mental freedom to be creative was when they were at primary school and being given that freedom can have a remarkably positive effect.
  • I was reminded of the ability of visual representation to communicate.  While we may talk of our ideas to regenerate Barrow from within it was the imagery, however abstruse, that fixed the message and persuaded.
  • I talk a lot.The power of the concept of “Future Now” as explained by Armelle.
  • The Charrette felt like four days with a group of long lost friends whose names I had forgotten. It was the greatest honour, privilege and delight to be part of it and I hope we have the chance to see each other again.  My thanks to Art Gene for organising everything in such a convivial way.


Carlos Lopez Galvez

On the question of global, glocal, local, etc.: I do believe there are conditions intrinsic to Barrow, which are shared by many medium and small towns across Europe and worldwide. This gives us room to think about the universal character of test-bed projects which may be implemented elsewhere.

Hi All,

I can only add to the feelings of gratitude after taking part of a brilliant and successful charrette. As Charlie wrote, it’s been a privilege and in line with a very significant finding we all seemed to share, it’s a process that is already in place and the outcomes of which we can only guess at this point; for the most part, separately.

It’s difficult to think of anything else that hasn’t been said, so only two things come to mind that may be relevant to the debate:

  • Like Walter, I believe we should work with instead of against the council. My general feeling (possibly a misleading one) is that there was an antagonism between ‘us’ dreamers and ‘them’ people in their everyday business of getting it wrong. To overcome this I proposed to play domino; but that’s how far I got to a plausible solution. Someone like Valerie could be central to thinking how to get representatives of all sides involved or, if not directly involved, to at least discuss about ways in which an adequate and effective consultation process might be put into place.
  • On the question of global, glocal, local, etc.: I do believe there are conditions intrinsic to Barrow, which are shared by many medium and small towns across Europe and worldwide. This gives us room to think about the universal character of test-bed projects which may be implemented elsewhere. I briefly discussed the idea of twin cities with Stuart; that may open different spaces for alternative funding. The example I know of is Berlin, but I came across a similar initiative in Glasgow ( cities/). At the same time, getting to know the very detail of where the problems are should be a structural part of the process of thinking about what Barrow really needs. More research would be needed on the latter or circulating the findings of past research (anything commissioned by the council?).

Maddi, Stuart and Steve, thanks again for your generosity, for making such a great selection of people and for creating a unique environment; it takes a special kind of sensitivity to get it just right.

I’d be happy to contribute to the documents which need writing, if needed.

Take good care of yourselves and be nothing but grand.

Team Two

Daniel Mallo: EC Architects/Lecturer in Architecture (Spain/UK)
Hannah Hull: Artist (UK)
Alison Hand: Artist/Academic/Architype Architects/Art Gene Board Member (UK)
Charlie MacKeith: Architect: Research Design (UK)

Hanna Hull

I really enjoyed being made to think until my brain hurt every single day.

Apologies for slowness to reply.
Quick notes:

I was surprised by a reluctance to test ideas on the public of Barrow within the  time-frame of the workshop. My group, at least, seemed slightly frightened of the idea (heh). I was keen to ask around and leave some questions within the public of Barrow.

I am not sure if those that we met had been invited on the Sunday, but it seemed to me a great shame that it was only us and two enthusiastic members of the local authority that witnessed our enthusiasm for the subject that was placed before us for four days.

The food was brilliant.

I am often weary of collaboration with strangers as it often feels that brilliant thoughts are channelled into a product that connects, in part, all of these brilliant thoughts, but does not necessarily do any of them justice. However, I felt the process of picking over each others ideas and locating shared interests was incredibly useful in terms of each of us becoming more acutely aware of our practice in relation to others, which for me was invaluable.

I really enjoyed being made to think until my brain hurt every single day. I am aware this is standard practice for architects. Ha. I have been describing the experience to people as a ‘thinking holiday’.

I needed more sleep.

We have left Maddi and Stuart with a big mess of thought for them to pick through, and perhaps there might have been a way for us to leave them with something they can more easily represent. Vox-pops or powerpoints or some standard way of recording ideas.

Thank you all for a wonderful experience. Challenging and inspiring and clarifying. I really hope Art Gene put on another one of these. Really invaluable. I think everyone should go on one. I also hope Steve has learnt to take his own advice with regards to practical clothing.

Alison Hand

Sheds are the ultimate in functional architecture, building around yourself – model for exploring self-build in a community-wide sense; vernacular architecture. Also they can embody both permanence and temporality. Self-build – is it the most ‘un-architecty’ architecture? The anti-imposition.

Barrow showed itself to be a complex and wonderful place. A place of multiple identities, a series of interlocking places – there is something quite fantastic about these distinct personalities. Sometimes we were expecting tensions where there were none. Barrow as a very horizontal place. Observation – looking up, down out, and over. A new reading of ‘streets in the sky’!


It became very clear how generic the plans for regeneration of the town and area are. What is already here is amazing – can we enhance, tease out, or just shift perception subtly of the existing assets of Barrow – can we prove that to make land (e.g. the Marina site) ‘useful’ it doesn’t have to be developed in a particular way (the generic regeneration model) – it doesn’t even have to be ‘useful’, or planned – people will make it so anyhow.

Temporary colonization.
Being candid about the relationship between town, industry, landscape

Gap site as expectation, as pleasure – mental space created as well as new physical space – creates emotions and atmosphere of expectation and curiosity

The Charrette was interesting in how it revealed not just difference across the disciplines, but that difference of approach between different artists can be as distinct as between artist, architect, or academic.

Sheds are the ultimate in functional architecture, building around yourself – model for exploring self-build in a community-wide sense; vernacular architecture. Also they can embody both permanence and temporality. Self-build – is it the most ‘un-architecty’ architecture? The anti-imposition.

Ideas spanned re-inhabitation, and temporary inhabitation.

Terraces: The image of the terrace is so potent so symbolic – the child’s drawing of house

Future working: I would be very interested in contributing or helping develop a longer research article in October. Also interested in ideas for exhibiting

Other suggestions Publishing – we could also approach architectural mags i.e. BD

Charlie MacKeith

Utopia: most utopias are in our imagination because they have been written up as dystopias. Utopia in Barrow was the simple opportunity to think hard about something different and what could be. Art Gene’s practice was mirrored by the process. And that shouldn’t be a surprise.

Dear all: first it was a privilege to be part of the intense sharing and touring and thanks to Art Gene for all the organisation and pre-thinking.

Ideas / concepts arising:

  • Elephant in the room: the industrial centre of the town and the acolyte mini commerce sheds; that these could be dealt with in a creative way, minimally, to differentiate the town from others.
  • That the whole process of discussion is essential to understand the unique character of anywhere/everywhere to inform an approach that counters the creeping standardisation/mediocrisation of lazy ‘regeneration’
  • What people want: too short to second guess over four days but I have a nagging doubt over promoting temporary solutions (which are correct but easy for cultural nomads to propose and difficult for others to live with the uncertainty)
  • Intent and artists: each working session, like the one we attended, should take changing ‘professional’ groups (environmental scientists, structural engineers, acousticians…) with artists as the constant partner; it is ‘professionals’ that need to test themselves through working with artists; get different professionals together and they’ll not learn from artists. ‘Professionals’ need to learn to re-evaluate the strictures of their training and practice. What the unlearning (or re-learning exchange) does for artists only an artist can say.
  • Utopias, tours and breadth of vision benefit us; however, maybe tackling a specific Barrow project (say the financing of the pub refurbishment on Piel) could have been a justifiable focus for the four days; this would have startlingly reinforced the validity and importance of the energy and expertise collected by Art Gene in Barrow.


  • Intent and artists: see above
  • Working out a process: there are no perfect models of architectural training and evaluation; there is no model charrette. It has to be haphazard and evolutionary, specific to each group of people and location. The essential dynamic of a charrette is to learn form the process including conflict, doubt and second guessing.
  • I thought this was perfect: discovery, play and food in locations outside (my) urban norm.
  • Utopia: most utopias are in our imagination because they have been written up as dystopias. Utopia in Barrow was the simple opportunity to think hard about something different and what could be. • Self realisations: being faced with trying to communicate and ending up using the tools that I have not questioned for thirty years.
  • West Lakes’ Renaissance and Cumbria Tourism’s loss.
  • Art Gene’s practice was mirrored by the process. And that shouldn’t be a surprise.

Team Three

Walter Menzies: Sustainable Development Advocate/Photographer/Writer (UK)
Jo Ray: Artist/Academic (UK)
Maddi Nicholson: Artist/founder Director: Art Gene (UK)
Alan Thompson: Artist/Philosopher/Architectural Designer/Writer (UK)
Manuel Tardits: Architect: Mikan (France/Japan)

Walter Menzies

congrats on a fine revisioning – it certainly exceeded all my expectations and Barrow is so fortunate to have artgene stardust sprinkled over/under /in it.

You asked for views on what worked, didn’t and process suggestions so here they are:

Excellent balance of professionalism/rigour/organisation/professionalism with creativity/flexibility- really hard to get this right but you succeeded…once or twice I thought we were about to tumble into chaos but we came back from the brink and of course this edginess added to everybody’s excitement Participant selection – don’t know how this was done but the end result was a very good mix of skills / backgrounds / experiences brought to the party Multi-disciplinary teams – right that you organised us into small, teams – all seemed to work well and I didn’t notice anyone disaffected/disengaged/lost /lonely. Enabling by an experienced enabler  Tom – absolutely essential Balance of the programme – mix of investigation/visits/seeing is believing and teamwork to produce proposals worked out v well and good to have injections such as Manuel on his terraces work and  briefing from Keith Johnson at the Council. venue and accommodation and transport all fine style/culture/ethos / artgene ambience – you at Art Gene and your fine building stimulated a creative and positive atmosphere – everyone responded to this

Engagement of BBC, Cumb tourism, regen company etc – this was their loss and a very great pity but see below  Admin/logistic/housekeeping support – there wasn’t any: so valuable time was wasted by maddi / stuart on this when they should have been contributing their experience and ideas to the discussions / proposals but see below

Professional mix: As a general point applicable anywhere,  but even more so in Barrow should there be follow up I would include 3 or 4 really creative ENGINEERS – they do exist, the best are terrific and they have a complementary perspective to architects/ urban designers artists- we could find them via Martin Stockley I am certain Engagement with / of Barrow BC / Cumb Tourism / westlakes renaissance etc – the public sector lot  (and why not the nuclear decommissioning authority as well – they have SHEDLOADS of cash?): I fully understand the problems and wrestle with the public sector myself  in my job here but one simple change I think would make a big difference – get them in at the beginning of process to do v short introductory peptalks and then of course during if poss and at the end – but MUST BE WITHIN WEEKDAY 9-5 WORKING hours – I dont want to start a daily mail style tirade but the fact is that it is almost impossible to get them out at any other time – this would mean that a charette could run over a weekend but would have to start and end on a weekday Admin / logistic /housekeeping support – I do realise that money is/will be tight but I feel sure that the standing of Art Gene is such that you could attract two or three art/architecture students perhaps…as runners…they would learn  a lot from the process i am sure AND FINALLY… thanks for involving me it was a great and memorable Charrette and you have of course a standing invitation to drop in for chat/coffee / binge drinking as appropriate – we are five mins walk from piccadilly station in lovely northern quarter love peace and (no that cant be right sounds too hippy dippy)… sustainability is the idea whose time has come: up the revolution! Walter


Jo Ray

We were invited in a way to be experts at being ourselves. The Charrette created a very particular environment which gave us permission to dream, to challenge and encourage each other.

How can we now create an environment that will help Barrow be expert at being Barrow?

Recurring themes
Realness / Integrity
A desire across the board for a genuine conversation with the inhabitants of Barrow
Honesty – openness to people’s real attitudes towards the town / landscape / themselves. Not trying to create somewhere else / someone else
Utopia as a work in progress and the JOY of the work in progress. A sealed, finished solution (or over-protection) may stifle vital evolution of place.
A wish to create a tangible and viable outcome in the near future from the ‘dream-space’ we were given.

Future working
What next?

We feel braver now, how can we transfer this feeling to Barrow?
We were invited in a way to be experts at being ourselves. The Charrette created a very particular environment which gave us permission to dream, to challenge and encourage each other.
How can we now create an environment that will help Barrow be expert at being Barrow?  This starts with how we share out Charrette findings to be sure.

Other things (short / mid term):
Skills sharing groups  (Dads club an amazing example of the strength that groups in Barrow already have)
Urban agriculture
Story telling / place sharing through flickr groups, google barrow, geocaching, urban picnicking
Artists / architects / designers in residence: inhabiting empty terraces as project spaces/ placed in guest homes / residencies in workplaces throughout Barrow
Site specific activities (resulting from the above)
Quality in everyday life – (accredited?) learning / skills sharing – joinery, horticulture etc –  in partnership with artists / designers
Test-bed projects in the Terraces – proposals for re-use of back-street spaces / terraced houses worked up by residents alongside designers / architects
Allotted land for urban agriculture small scale work / play structures (model of European allotment houses? protected from other development  for a set period?)

Ideas that could be considered light, temporal, small scale, or mutable continually emerged, but these were actually concerned with permanence in the sense of building a situation that is durable and self sustaining – a methodology of sorts?
‘self build’ / ‘shedding’…not as nostalgic style fetish, but a recognition of the ‘rightness’ people can generate for themselves given the opportunity to do so.
I was excited by the discussion on scale in the last summing up session, and the thought of small scale actions / rhizomatic growth of activity could present an option for immediate action (Martin’s ‘Barrow as installation’ / Ruth / Hannah interventions etc)
Situations cultivated within the unique environment of Barrow could mean a more appropriate ‘fit’ and avoid the waste synonymous with a solution that is ‘one size fits all’.
Respect the individuality of an environment.  – The Barrow Ecosystem

Alan Thompson

It was bloody hard work … and I did start to suffer from sleep deprivation towards the end … but there was such great humour and a lovely atmosphere it didn’t seem to matter.

Sorry for my even slower reply. Barrow seems such very distant, but such a beautiful experience.

Firstly, to Stuart, Maddi and Steve, a huge thanks for being invited to share such a wonderful opportunity. I really appreciated Art Gene’s vision, enthusiam and very generous hospitality. The planning for this event must have been a heavy task … but was always delivered with such a light touch. The moderation from Tom, Charlie, Martin et al… was also very effective in guiding our debate … without ever stifling it. Finally, I was overwhelmed by the wonderful collection of participants. Yes Hannah, everybody should do this from time to time!

The dynamics of the interdisciplinary teams worked very well indeed … but I agree with Carlos and Walter; embedding the planners and politicians into the teams could have been a good idea … Perhaps we could have even included some Barrovians too. It would have been very different that way; who knows, in practice it might not work … but it would be worth a try for Charrette mkII ?

As Hannah said, I would have liked a little more contact with locals too. However, given our timescale, it would have been a bit difficult to do this properly. I know that it had to be an intense program and our work probably benefited from that intensity … but another day or two would have been so valuable!

There are inevitably roughly four phases to a project like this:

1) Investigation
2) Rumination
3) Production
4) Presentation

In our case, the balance was about right … But, personally, I would have liked a bit less time for investigation and a tiny bit more for production and presentation. Then again, now the dust has settled, perhaps this is the moment to start putting things into perspective and starting a real attempt to “produce”, “present” and even reconsider what we learnt and what the value of this process could be for Barrow and beyond. Informally, I’ve already shared my experiences with quite a lot of very interested people. I’m sure that our discussions and experiences have spread far beyond Barrow by now.

It was bloody hard work … and I did start to suffer from sleep deprivation towards the end … but there was such great humour and a lovely atmosphere it didn’t seem to matter.

Manuel Tardits

After all – the real success is not that we could contain our disagreements on positive and creatives levels, this is the least that could be asked from us, but of what could happen afterwards…

Dear all,
First of all thank you to Art Gene and its two genitors. Thanks also and that was pretty essential to the “core members” who worked hard to prepare the session with the mentioned genes. The informal as well as ever present organization was just informal enough to be perfect.

To be honest what I would say has mainly been written and with a much proper sense of care, humor and most probably a better English skill than mine (do not protest, I know, I know, my English is brilliant. Never the less, pardon it as you usually do with my French).

Indeed everything lies in the process and the openness of the minds of its various members. However such workshops/charrettes are never linear, nor really conclusive. Too short of a time,  with people too foreign to the object of study. Calling it an object or a case of study , I still wonder if, though looking for a certain sort of empathy, such words are appropriate. Besides and as Charlie mentioned in close terms we pass and the Barrowers stay. We had to dream and we dreamed, some of the dreams being more dramatic than some others. But we have to be careful the way the drama go the ears/eyes of the local inhabitants.

So yes places like Barrow needs such external visits because they feel more remote than they actually are. Such sessions are great, I enjoyed it a lot with all its confusion, profusion and freedom of expression. I think however that the hard work remains in Maddi and Stuart’s hands. In other words the people from Barrow and their emanation represented by the council must be shown with extreme politeness and care what we, the passionate beckoners, were struck by within their everyday environment. After all – the real success is not that we could contain our disagreements on positive and creatives levels,  this is the least that could be asked from us, but of what could happen afterwards. Eventually we prefer to be considered passionate than beckoning. That task ahead is surely the hardest and I hope that we could help again the two remaining heroes*.

* hero in its original meaning, being the representatives of a group, a tribe, even a horde coming on a charrette. Best regards Manuel

Walter Menzies pt2

Walter Menzies pt2 i have enjoyed all of these comments – come on the rest of you…what did you think?

the process was remarkably successful i felt – this was a high risk charrette as most of us had never worked together before – the participant selection process and the organisation into groups worked better than anybody could reasonably have expected

and the structure of the event was about the right balance between exploration/visits and developing ideas

all of this was the result of the artgene team’s  brilliant and exceptional fusion of creativity and professionalism
and an atmosphere of commitment and energy that kept us all motivated and sparkly

can barrow and places like it benefit from an injection of ideas from outside?
yes – as it rapidly became clear that “official” regeneration in barrow is trapped in an outdated paradigm summed up by roundabouts, vague hopes of multimillion pound injections of developer capital into the proposed marina – anytown / anywhere in fact

the collapse of conventional property economics means that it is an ideal time to be considering new ideas – for example the propositions a number of groups were making about tourism / cultural tourism etc etc

some of these ideas need worked up led by artgene and local partners – an exciting prospect the one fundamental change i would suggest to the charrette process is in relation to the local authorities and the regeneration agencies – they need to be more involved in the creative process – this means tuning at least some of the charrette programme to relate to normal public sector working hours and including the brightest and best from these organisations in the teams – easier said than done – I know – i spend a lot of my time with these people but they do matter and they must be energised / stimulated / engaged!

Team Four

Ruth Pringle: Artist (UK/France)
Marianne Heaslip: Architect (UK) Steve Harris: Consultant/Harris Associates (UK)
Martin Gent: Artist/Performer (UK)
Armelle Tardiveau: EC Architects/Lecturer in Architecture (France/UK)
Jason Taylor: Designer/Artist (UK)

Ruth Pringle

Hi All/ Steve,

Ha, I’m still pooped – really enjoyed working with everyone, though, as my group already knows it was surprising the different methodology we had. I am richer for it. I learnt a lot in the discussions : my sense of what is possible has increased… all surprising and instructive. I am all inspired now and don’t want to stop.

I have a few little comments / suggestions:

Upload all photos to flickr so that we can share them (please).

The charrette was well organised, food excellent, etc. Brilliant experience!! Thank you for all your hard work.

Suggestions for future:
• When walking to Stuart’s shed, get us collecting rubbish from the beach – its a small action but a good one (there I go again: wrong scale)
• Get the reading list to us in time to track it down/read it… maybe we can still build on the reading list – there are about 1000 things I feel I want to learn about now.
• Your use of local guides was great, more opportunity to speak to local people would be appreciated.
• Not sure about the initial idea that we weren’t thinking only about Barrow – that we were thinking in more general terms… when what we saw and talked about was so specific to Barrow (there really is nowhere like it), and the problems you see are the ones you want to work with. I could only think of one scale at one time (but I can see that ideas could later be adapted). Why not just Barrow?

Bigger questions..
What’s next?? I think the presentations were great! Can we have transcripts on the website? What are you going to do with the information gleaned about us working together ? Not the presentations and ideas, but that cross disciplinary experiment? I think it would be interesting if many people do try to sum it up, and we can see what is common between professions. Perhaps we can publish a report on AXIS or A-N or other magazine if we are quick.

Are there any ideas that you (art gene) can develop for Barrow?

What are you going to do with all those great images? A website? A book? An exhibition? There are some great ideas that would communicate well with the public in Barrow. Can we publish a one-off magazine or make a poster exhibition developing images / ideas from the Charrette? (possibly in the Art Gene gallery, but preferably out and about in the town… Hannah and I have already started to kick some ideas around to this end, shout if you are interested). I really think it could make a great site-specific exhibition.

I am very happy to spend more time on developing results / publication ideas / admin work if needed (August). Whatever is useful, just let me know.

Love to everyone!! Ruth

Marianne Heaslip

Hello All,
Thanks to all of you for making the few days we had in Barrow last week so much fun – I got an awful lot out of it and I think it’s helped me shake a few cobwebs off and feel a bit braver before I leave the steady comfort of paid employment in an architects office and try my luck with further study and freelancing.

I hope everyone made it home ok – apologies to anyone I missed saying goodbye to properly as I was dashing off to the train.   Some thoughts on the overall set up of the event and our conclusions:

– The venue was excellent and a really insipring building. (It’s helped to spur me on with other projects I’m involved with of a similar nature)
– Having meals together in the gallery space and at Stuarts hut was really enjoyable and the conversations had during these meals informed a lot of my thinking throughout the event. This informal discussion is a really important part of events like this – though it does make it a pretty intense social situation.
– The trips to visit different parts of Barrow were also really enjoyable – though in the short space of time we were there it was quite difficult to process all the information gained during these trips and its potential relevance, if any.
– The group work format was successful I think, though not always easy going we battered on and were able to negotiate with everyone’s different viewpoints and come up with hopefully useful conclusions.
– I would have liked to spend more time on some kind of feedback sessions between the groups (though I know some of this happened in the informal discussions around mealtimes etc). I think at the end there was a lot common to the conclusions that all the different groups came two. It would have been good to have a little more time to work this through and discuss more fully
– so we could almost have presented a more united front to the council in our conclusions
– though I guess this may come out in the editing and dissemination process that follows.
– I think many people were concerned about the relationship we had as ‘interlopers’ to the people who live and work everyday in Barrow, and were sensitive to this in their proposals – seeing what we were involve in as part of a wider process rather. I think this is really healthy, and ultimately more useful than coming to town, dumping a load of ‘grand project’ and legging it.

I hope that’s helpful.

I know I’ve promised some references to people following various discussion at the event. Unfortunately I’m running out of time  – I have to catch a train, so must dash. I’ll send on the promised info as soon as I get back.

Best wishes,

Marianne Heaslip pt2

I promised information to some of you, following on from various conversations in Barrow. I thought I should send out the email to everyone in case it was of use. Apologies for taking so long to get organised and send this.

Carlos: The EcoMuseum concept was developed primarily in France as I understand it, mainly to deal with issues that arise in post-industrial areas. It refers to ‘Eco’ in the original Greek sense, meaning ‘place’ or ‘home’. I found a few decent references whilst researching for my diploma thesis project including “Davis, P. (1999). ‘Ecomuseums: A Sense of Place.’ London, Leicester University Press”. The Wikipedia reference gets you started – From what I can remember, the only museum I could find in the UK with links to the Ecomuseum network is in Nidderdale, in the Dales on the Yorkshire/Cumbria border.

Alan and Hannah: I mentioned that I’d been part of the ‘View of the Child’ design council research project, helping to facilitate workshops with primary school children. It’s website is at The email list is still active and if you’d like to participate I think you can still ask Cathy Burke, the administrator of the group at Leeds Uni.

Armelle: I promised information on the generation of electricity from movement/ pressure. The mechanism I mentioned was Piezoelectricity, the creation of electrical charge from physical deformation of materials. The description on Wikipedia isn’t bad – . This is the mechanism used to power and keep time on ‘Quartz’ watches. It is difficult to get much electrical energy from this, as it requires quite a lot of physical pressure to create. However, some have been attempting to use this effect to generate power from fabric – It’s all in the early research stages, but it’s pretty interesting all the same. Last year a night-club opened in London with a Piezoelectric dance floor – a nicely joined up idea I think, though I’m not sure how much power it actually generates –

I’m afraid I’d been misinformed on the car-park energy-making speed-bump I mentioned. It actually uses a fairly simple kinetic mechanism, rather than the piezoelectric effect, to generate power –   Hope you all find this interesting.
Best wishes,

Martin Gent

Dear All.
What a great time, challenging, intense and inspiring.

Thanks to Art Gene, particularly Maddi, Stuart and Steve, for organising this great opportunity and space for us to dream together.

From our group work and large group discussions a number of key themes emerged for me that are still resonating.

• How to create and carry out ‘intervention’ in community which has effect but does not ‘drown’ what is good about the existing.
• Change is a continuous process with no end, how does one maintain that dynamic, no ‘gaps’, no ‘waiting’.
• Defined v Undefined.
• Framing, defining and creating space that is filled by others.
• ‘Conversation’ – in it’s widest sense, in community, with other communities, with object, with space, with passion.
• Barrow as ‘installation’ – exploring the notion of Barrow as an installation space, where elements are introduced in relation to each other to enhance and create atmosphere. I’ve included a couple of photo’s to use at your will ! Some thoughts on the process: • Very much enjoyed the immersion into the landscape in and around Barrow.
• As we were all coming from different working practices and methodology, it would have been useful to have spent some time, early on, in our groups engaging in some initial exercises and practical experiments to explore and discover each others practice, ways of thinking and methodology.
• In a similar vein, I would  been interested in how we maintain a position in the dreaming space for longer, before being drawn into the practical.

I would love to discuss these and other thoughts further. So, do keep me informed of future plans. In the mean time thanks again. I hope this finds all of you well.

Best wishes.
Martin Martin J Gent
Director of Creativity



Participants (image below)

Jason Taylor: (UK) Designer/Artist
Tom Lonsdale: (UK) Chartered Landscape Architect/Placecraft/Places Matter
Kenji Sherma: (UK) Architect/Planner
Manuel Tardits: (Japan/France) Architect:
Alan Thompson: (UK) Artist/Philosopher/Architectural Designer/Writer
Alison Hand: (UK) Artist/Academic/Architype Architects/Art Gene Board Member
Walter Menzies: (UK) Sustainable Development Advocate/Photographer/Writer
Marianne Heaslip: (UK) Architect
Armelle Tardiveau: (UK/France) EC Architects/Lecturer in Architecture
Martin Gent: (UK) Artist/Performer
Maddi Nicholson: (UK) Artist/founder Director: Art Gene
Stuart Bastik: (UK) Artist/founder Director: Art Gene (UK)
Carlos Lopez Galvez: (UK/Colombia) Architect and Academic/Institute of Historical Research
Steve Harris: (UK) Consultant/Harris Associates
Ruth Pringle: (France/UK) Artist

Charlie MacKeith: (UK) Architect: Research Design
Jo Ray: Artist/Academic (UK)
Daniel Mallo: (UK/Spain) EC Architects/Lecturer in Architecture (Spain/UK)
Lowri Bond: (UK) Artist/Projects Officer: Northern Architecture) (UK)
Sophia Lycouris: (UK/Greece) Artist/Academic/Dance/Choreography
Hannah Hull: (UK) Artist