09 JULY 2019
EDP’s Associate Director, Gareth Howell, and Senior Masterplanner, Rachel Aldred, discuss their vision, design process and outcomes of their recently shortlisted entry for the RIBA Journal’s Future Town Centres Competition.
Architects from across the country were invited to submit proposals to redesign one of three town centres; the market town of Tredegar, the seaside town of Dover or the inner-city town of Byker. The competition sought innovative designs and illustrations to demonstrate how the town centre could be reinvigorated to put it back at the heart of community, life and the economy.
EDP were one of three practices who were chosen to consider the market town of Tredegar in Wales, a historic iron and coal mining community in the Welsh valleys with a rich heritage, not least as the birth place of our National Health Service through the vision of Aneurin Bevan MP.
In April, Gareth and Rachel presented their proposals to a room of invited local people, stakeholders, councillors and the judging panel. The feedback from the panel was very positive, and they have since been contacted by Blaenau Gwent Council to set a date to present the scheme in more detail.
Gareth: “We wanted and needed a ‘big idea’, so we developed a concept: Inside out - built typologies to re-populate and re-animate the public realm, and Outside in - bringing nature into urban centres”.
Rachel: “We also sought to capitalise on our multi-disciplinary approach and build a manifesto to achieve these aims through the three key objectives of re-populate, re-wild and re-animate”.
Gareth: “It was clear that there was a big opportunity to develop brownfield land in Tredegar, effectively building a critical mass of new housing, employment, and artisan maker space to intensify the heart of the town and revitalise the community”.
Rachel: “Bringing nature into the urban centre, by reconnecting existing green infrastructure and creating new green links across the town to enhance health and well-being was key. Tredegar is a planned town, so we felt the designer Samuel Homfray Senior’s placemaking legacy should be celebrated and intensified with the formation of a parallel layer of development, integrated through a network of connective green infrastructure”.
Rachel: “Creating a high-quality public realm as a stage set for urban life, was the third key theme and objective. We felt there is a huge opportunity to re-animate the high street as a series of outdoor ‘rooms’, by limiting both through traffic and car parking along this route. The iconic Clock Tower and The Circle at the southern end of the main street could then be enhanced as the symbolic heart of Tredegar and the community’s main gathering space for events".
Gareth: “We started to do a lot of research on BioPhilic design principles, as this aligned with the whole ethos of the National Health Service legacy of Tredegar, so Tredegar high street could become a model for a future ‘healthy high street’. The Biophilic design redefines the high street by looking at the relationship between built form and nature working together to create spaces that reduce stress, enhance creativity, facilitate positive social interactions and improve our mental health and wellbeing".
Gareth: “Clearly, our manifesto and ideas struck a cord with the judges, so we got the felt pens and tracing out to put thoughts in action. As Rachel said, by extending the masterplan block structure with development and green corridors we had a strong legible design that provided the basis for a paternoster of routes and spaces that fed back to the high street creating key nodal events”.
Rachel: “Our ideas covered all bases from macro masterplanning down to the micro BioPhilic details of how the sensory experience for people interacting in the street would be enhanced. This includes feature such as rain gardens and rills, planters incorporating seating, right through to changing the palette of building colours and materials to harmonise with the surrounding vernacular and flora, with a goal in mind to bring nature back to the high street".
Gareth: “Back in April, Rachel and I travelled to Tredegar to present our proposals to a full room of invited local people, stakeholders, councillors and the judging panel. It was really well received, and whilst on the day the panel selected another proposal as their preferred scheme, the feedback from the panel, local business people and the council was really positive. Since the presentation, we have been contacted by Blaenau Gwent Council to set up a date to present the scheme in more detailto the wider Regeneration team and local Councillors, which is hugely encouraging”.
Rachel: “Our submission has been published in a feature supplement to the July issue of the RIBA Journal, along with the recommendations for Future Town Centres, to ensure the wider architectural community is part of the conversation – so watch this space!”.
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