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Retrofit and the RIBA President

The AJ Retrofit award should be a highlight of the architectural year. First it deals with the bread and butter of an architectural practice as well as the large scale projects. It is all about context, constraints and lasting solutions. This year the winners are no exceptions to these challenges and whilst they lack the really big projects of recent times, there is so much to learn from them.

Stephen Hodder has just taken up his role as President of the RIBA. He knows about Retrofit. Retrofit is all about giving a building a second or maybe third chance. The first initiative of his two year position seem to be seeking evidence for “good design improving lives” as a justification to sell the services of architects to a possibly disbelieving client. This is not a new area of research as others such as the Useable Buildings Trust have pointed out. And if Stephen Hodder is not aware of this I would be amazed.

Whilst there are design deniers in some departments of Government, is this the best way to promote good design? Paul Morrell, at a CABE event a couple of years ago, said that the Government wanted design to a standard that was not excellent, but “good enough”, effectively endorsing Michael Gove’s agenda for schools. Coming from someone with Paul’s track record and experience, this was a powerful and depressing message. I hope it will not be the result of the President’s initiative.

Crystal Ball Gazing #1 Housing and Planning

Crystal ball gazing #1 Housing and Planning

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A massive subject but one that is high up the political agenda, locally and nationally – at last.

Anything done in terms of delivering new homes will only be a small contribution to the overall need for new homes nationally though the needs vary from place to place.

Sites that are available, affordable and desirable have to be considered with emerging planning policies and public support within the context of the economy and changing need. All are moving targets. The politics is rarely static in the long term.

Housing must now live with an uncertain future outside the EU, which may mean changes to law and regulations, and even be affected by immigration and construction labour availability. All consequences of the Brexit referendum result.

Urban Design London offer a forum for London Boroughs and interested parties to debate these and other important issues for London. Last week on 12 January. the new Deputy Mayor for London, James Murray presented an overview of housing which the Mayor Sadiq Khan had made a key part of his manifesto. It came across as well thought through and moving forward well. It is still early days but the ambition and clarity shone through. Points discussed during the day included:

  • Demand and location for homes
  • Delivering affordable homes (affordability being defined in many ways)
  • How accessibility, design guidance and densification impact urban development
  • Estate regeneration and others discrete interventions (small sites etc)

This is a part of a much bigger picture. The next version of the London Plan has just started on its journey, with draft consultation in the Autumn of 2017, Examination in Public in Summer 2018 and the final version in Autumn 2019.

When looking forward it is always valuable to give some consideration to recent futures. Institutional memory is short particularly now that jobs for life have disappeared.

Looking at the Place Alliance website took me to a short summary report on Housing Futures prepared by CABE in 2004. The study was looking at the next 20 years so 2004-2024. We are more than half way there. What was surprising was how on the one hand so much had changed in the political background but that the challenges and issues were still very much the same.

Broken down into 7 papers the broad subject headings are:

  • Cities
  • Suburbs
  • 21st Century Homes
  • Housing Economics
  • Climate
  • Governance and
  • Regeneration

This is a snap shot of a huge subject.

I am reminded that one of the authors, Christine Whitehead, said on Radio 4’s Today Programme recently when commenting on the latest housing initiative – (a version of garden cities, now including towns and villages) that there had been over 150 initiatives on housing since 2010.

Concrete Concept

Brutalist buildings around the world
Christopher Beanland

Packing case lettering, thick stiff card cover, no frills like a dust jacket and an A to Z of Brutalist Architecture from Jonathan Meades. What more could you want?

Christopher Beanland introduces his subject with the usual questions.

“Why brutalism?….why do you like these ugly buildings? Where the bloody hell did they come from? The answer to the first is easy as pie; the second -well how long have you got….”

Unfortunately the answer to the first is so personal that it only confirms my suspician that “brutalist buildings” are more about style than substance.

Brutalism was all the rage when I started studying Architecture. A first year project included an assessment of the South Bank complex, which rightly appears in this book (Hayward Gallery, Queen Elizabeth Hall and Purcell Room). We didn’t think of it as “architecture”. We ignored or at least we’re not conscious of the discipline of creating the concrete materiality, the interiors and their functional requirements. We concentrated on the external spaces, terraces, the movement and the drama of the forms. We enjoyed photographing it and printing our own photos in black and white. Our project turned into a graphic production.

Only later did I realise that in Concrete buildings there is often no façade. Concrete is a rigorous task master. If I had done my year out working for Lasdun I would have learnt more about the discipline of the material, maybe my appreciation of its qualities would be deeper. Concrete became a means to an end not an end in itself. A malleable, invariably structural material with lots of great qualities but usually hidden because to expose it was too tricky, expensive and prone to all sorts of failures.

Meades and Beanland are not architects. This is no disqualification but as enthusiasts who love the material for its imagery, drama and robustness, they risk becoming advocates for something far more complex and challenging than they perhaps appreciate.

The 50 selected buildings are an example of the dangers of these thematic and luxuriously illustrated books. They seduce and avoid the pitfalls, the failed details, the cold bridges. There are many more that could equally deserve to be included. One of the great pities is that some are no longer with us or are actually being demolished, as I write.

If this can add to the record before it is too late, it is all to the good. Whether Brutalism and concrete can catch hold of the imagination of more than just the cognoscenti is another matter.

The Bristol Arena

Making a place – master planning and architecture.
Design Team
Populus: Architects and lead consultant
Fielden Clegg Bradley Studios: Architects
Buro Happold: Engineers

The Arena provides a flexible internal entertainment space for a wide variety of events with a maximum capacity of 12,000. Outside the Arena itself the site will initially include surface parking which in a second phase be developed providing up to 19,000 sqm floor area of mixed uses. Outdoor spaces for events and accessible parking will also be provided. The design teams’ aims to create a cutting edge multi-event destination- ‘a ‘Colosseum’ for Bristol. The Bristol Arena has recently been granted planning permission.
The Arena concept developed most often in the USA has most often been developed on sites outside the City Centre. As such these large internalized entertainment spaces are a challenge to the urbanist, (even in Rome). Locating the Bristol Arena on the Diesel Depot site next door to Bristol’s Grade 1 Listed Temple Meads Station, has also been a long journey, with the trials of recession and the virtual freezing of development outside London. Now that it has received planning permission it can move on to prove that all the effort was worth it.
The constrained “island” site faced many challenges, both practical and qualitative. How can the site accommodate competing demands of access for visitors, the audience as well as service vehicles and a river to cross? Can the topographical challenges of a flat site with a virtually shear wall to the south and steeply sloping and busy road along the south west? Will activities attract during the day as well as the evening? Will the site offer more than just a one stop shop based around entertainment. In answering all these questions, the client, operators and design team has done an excellent job
Site access is difficult, the choice of options is limited. The Avon has to be crossed and it is unfortunate that the first bridge for vehicle access to the site has been less than inspired. It is not a dramatic gesture, which would be the wrong move, but is not restrained and simple. It falls between the two, a missed opportunity. The pedestrian and cycling bridge which will follow soon is remote from the main action, requiring a long ramp for cyclists. Pedestrian and cycle routes join to become a shared pedestrian and cycle bridge. This is not the optimum option as it could lead to pedestrian and cycle conflicts. Given the green credentials and importance of cycling in Bristol this is an unfortunate decision.
One of the main challenges for Arenas is the servicing and access for large trucks required for get in and broadcasting. With the access restrictions to the site all types of vehicles including large trucks for shows as well as cars to the car park use the same bridge access. This will call for very careful management to avoid conflicts. Could the surface car park provided in the first stage have provided for more creative meanwhile uses before the second phase comes forward? Were other locations for vehicle parking considered? Could disabled access be provided by a shuttle service rather than an on site car park? It seems to me that all these questions could have been answered by more radical solutions but I guess the business plan and economics ruled the day.
The client and consultant team have high ambitions…
“the extraordinary setting of Arena Island be brought to life through dynamic landscapes and a series of terraces that flow from river to park, and through village to a new public square, providing
 the platform for a whole range of outdoor events and community activities.”
The success of the Arena as a destination will depend on the range of other activities at all times of day and in the evening. This will help determine the character of the place and the challenges relate to the island nature of the site. This site has special qualities. I would have expected more have been made of the public spaces around the building. Hard landscaping predominates but the historic references are lost. Quieter spaces and more soft landscaping and tree planting would be welcome. The old Diesel Depot site had distinctive dramatic qualities. It is to be hoped that the art interventions will draw from the history and add to the sense of place.
Many of these challenges will only be fully answered as later phases of development come forward. But in the first stage, the creation of the Arena as a new venue will begin to answer these questions. Ultimately, will the Arena and its surroundings become part of the City? Given its location and the fast evolving Bristol Temple Quarter, the future looks very promising. Bristol is benefitting from the vision of Mayor George Ferguson and the Government and other Agencies promoting the South West of England over many years. Without their commitment and vision the Arena development would not have reached this stage.
The visuals of the building are dramatic and promise much, a beacon at night. As the winner of a well worked design competition, the Arena deserves to be a great success and with a team that combines Populus, FCB Studios and Buro Happold, it has the credentials and track record to deliver it.

James Wyatt – Architect to George III

book review for Building Design

Screen Shot 2016-02-02 at 16.04.29James Wyatt: Architect to George III

By John Martin Robinson
Yale University Press
400pp; £48



A detailed and fascinating narrative of Wyatt’s extraordinary life

Two hundred years have elapsed since the death of James Wyatt. This is an appropriate time for a reassessment, which John Martin Robinson has undertaken in this detailed and fascinating narrative of Wyatt’s extraordinary life.

Wyatt led a charmed life. From relatively humble beginnings in Staffordshire, he made his way aided by family and local nobility through two years in Venice and four years in Rome: studying, drawing and observing. Contacts and powerful supporters gained in Rome led to a commission to design the Pantheon in Oxford Street, a speculative entertainment building that was to make his reputation. He barely looked back for the next 30 years.

Robinson enthuses over Wyatt’s talents and his creative development in thematic chapters covering his working methods, developing neoclassical and gothic styles of architecture; designing and furnishing country houses; collaborations with industrial giants Matthew Boulton and Wedgwood and furniture for Gillow and Hepplewhite. The result was an architectural practice and appointments that, by the late 18th century, were unchallenged in England, Wales and Ireland.

Works “of improvement” to a number of cathedrals led to Wyatt being described as “The Destroyer” for his insensitivity to the historic aspects of existing buildings. Almost nothing remains of his changes. His best “public” work at Oxford University (the Radcliffe Observatory and Oriel College Library) remain. But, for such an extensive public output, which included Woolwich Arsenal and Chatham, there is little that is unaltered if not demolished.

By the end of the 18th century Wyatt had succeeded Sir William Chambers as architect to George III. But his reputation and output has suffered since. Drawings have been lost and his chaotic working methods have taken their toll. The Pantheon was burnt down in 1792.

Wyatt was essentially an eclectic aesthete, with excellent taste, who, after the six years’ study in Italy, turned his hand to different styles with facility and sensitivity. The illustrations and detailed descriptions by Robinson are an education.

His life ended in a single tragic accident but decline was well on the way. While he was exceptionally well served by craftsmen, builders and clerks of works, he had nobody honestly handling the daily grind of practice management, keeping records and indeed claiming fees. Clients lost patience in spite of the assured way he dealt with their demands. He died in a coach accident, bankrupt.

The debate over the role of “traditional” architecture and copying is as old as the hills and Wyatt’s contribution, as a supreme interpreter of many styles, remains a rich source of reference and a great story.


Estate and Context – two books – one subject

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Reviews first published by Building Design December 2015

Until I had “read” both books it would have never occurred to me that they could be talking about the same complex and indefinable term that architects and urban designers use so loosely – “context”.

I write “read’ because so much of Estate is visual. Estate is a photographic record of a place as it was at one very specific time 1991. It doesn’t show the emergence of a place, its design, construction or the continuing story of it. Of the nine original tower blocks only three remain. Why these three are retained, they also happened to be the smaller ones (13 storeys against 16) is not part of the story.

Jonathan Meades has set it in a written context and as one would expect it goes beyond the immediate images and goes straight to the political context, racialism, public housing before it became “social” housing and by 1991 the advent of Thatcherism and the right to buy. Interestingly according to Hugo Young quoted in James Meek’s Private Island, Thatcher had to be talked into right to buy by Edward Heath as a populist policy and as Meek says one that violated basic Thatcherite principles – self reliance – good / state handouts – bad. But perhaps that is a point that doesn’t fit into the Meades narrative.

Laura Noble in her essay deals with the more detailed aspects of the subject, interiors and exteriors, materiality, landscape and above all the subject matter, the people living on the estate. The photographs almost suggest being staged or set up. They look studied as indeed some were but others had to be captured quickly in an age long before digital media allowed for multiple images. At the end one wonders what exactly the photographs have to say. As with so much photojournalism it is perhaps only with the passing of more time that the relevance becomes clear. At the moment the images could almost be contemporary and that to me means that we have not progressed. Sad but true.

“Context” on the other hand is an ambitious attempt at defining the qualities that make places and specifically an urban place. The field of architecture and urban design proliferate with such terms but rarely are they defined. Eric Parry has attempted this in relatively short but esoteric sections dividing the subject into 5 chapter subjects. He has further enhanced his subjects by reference to his approach to building design as well as other well-known practitioners in Europe. By relating his approach to very specific situations he has the advantage of using real life to explain his approach to this complex subject without recourse to generalization.

With headings of Pavement, Horizon, Simultaneity, Kinetics and Artifice he walks us through the qualities of a place in a manner that only the most thoughtful of designers can. Illustrated by sketches, photographs and maps, the qualities of urban environment in its physical, historical and changing character through the day is brought to life through reference often to projects and studies done in his office.

In the second chapter he teasingly shows his 2006 sketch of the skyline including the site of his recently revealed 1 Undercroft tower with on the following pages a discussion of the detail of the cenotaph with its celestial radius of 1000 feet now referenced in the Tower design. How these thoughts fed into the design and what part they might have played are for the future no doubt.

Whether this is a valuable reference book for the aspiring designer or a good story told to promote a successful and creative office is the question. In the hands of Eric Parry the subtlety and sophistication of context is clear. Unfortunately in the hands of lesser designers too much sophistication can be a handicap to achieving good quality design.

Walking to work….

On Sunday, I went for a long walk. It was a lovely warm day and I wanted to look at a couple of sites on the edge of the City in advance of a design review.

I also wanted to look at what was happening in Victoria Street where I spent about 8 years working at City Hall, including the redesign of the Cathedral Piazza, a favourite project as the City Council client working with Luke Engleback.

Cathedral Piazza, an oasis.

Cathedral Piazza, an oasis.

I wanted to have another look at the Tate Britain and the Caruso St John work there. I wanted to take the river boat to Tate Modern. When I got there I set out on my meandering walk to the 2 sites.

You can see what is happening to the City from the air, from models at the Building Centre, from websites and blogs, from the architectural and urban design press, from riverside walks and the river bus, but you have to experience it at ground level to appreciate the transformation that this City is going through.

On that quiet Sunday the city was generally pretty empty. The parks and gardens around St Paul’s generally packed. The South Bank thronged with people including some paddling in the Thames.

The south bank beach

The south bank beach

Traffic was virtually non existent, yet no roads were closed. As soon as I reached Liverpool Street station all that changed. It was packed, the roads were busy, the pollution noticeable, the hustle and bustle of street markets and the pull of a major transport interchange. Away from the main streets all was much quieter, no crowds of office workers and so the spaces were revealed for their positive and negative qualities.

The sites were close by, very much as I expected, largely derelict, unloved and ripe for development of some kind. Little if anything of quality. The replacements will be transformational. They could potentially undo much of the solid incremental work of repair and conservation that the area is undergoing. They will have an immediate impact on the surrounding streets and the value of what remains there.

Elevated view Arnold Circus

Elevated view Arnold Circus

So I thought I should remind myself of local examples of places created from scratch not just through the historic process of renewal and rebirth. I went to Arnold Circus, the Boundary estate.

It is just inconceivable that this form of development could be repeated today. Take a recent example,  Mount Pleasant.  Whether the proposed and approved design is good or poor is only a small part of the problem. The local community felt pressed by the lack of local involvement and the Mayor’s overruling local feelings to commission an alternative design.  Maybe it’s not much better, but that is not the issue.  What is clear is that the privatised Royal Mail in conjunction with the Mayor have little concern for the views of local people and their elected representatives for the place being created. A similar tale is being told across the Capital, although much is disputed by the local authorities involved.

In the City fringes where new and increasingly high value residential, mixed use and hotel developments abound, a move away from a mono-cultural office environment is welcome. But, are the places created, enhancements to the bustle and complexity of these, thriving, neighbourhoods?

Thriving and active

Thriving and active


Knightsbridge Barracks

To list or not to list? Demolish or retain, tall building or mid rise street. If you want a good case to reveal the full complexity of the listing process, the debate over tall buildings, heritage and the distinctiveness of place and its impact on development, it is hard to think of a single better case than the Knightsbridge Barracks.

The third Barracks on the site, completed to the designs of the significant mid 20th century architect Sir Basil Spence, from the start controversial, of undeniable significance architecturally, historically and of great importance  as a group of buildings on a severely constrained site, the complex, according to participants at the New London Architecture breakfast meeting , John Allen in particular, was pretty clear, it deserved listing.

If a similar scheme with a tall element were proposed today, John Walker of Westminster City Council Planning, was clear it would not be approved. Indeed he mentioned the removal of the tower as being an improvement to the skyline. Whilst not an advocate of tall buildings around the park, the Barracks unlike the Hilton or Lancaster Gate Hotels is a significant and distinctive landmark and its removal would be a step too far. However it is contrary to policy for development around the listed Park and conservation area no more tall buildings will be developed unless that policy changes, but of course this has no bearing on the question of listing.

But the listing aspect is only one part of a larger issue. The location of the monarch’s personal guard, the Blues and Royals the Household Cavalry within 30 minutes of the Queen is a critical part of the development equation as clearly pointed out by John Walker. To replace the existing Barracks requires a new location somewhere close by, in the most expensive real estate in London. This has been the stumbling block for every potential applicant discussing their proposals with the planners in Westminster.

So what is likely to happen? Perhaps some amendment of the rules and requirements set by the Government in terms of distance and riding time or a continuation of the barracks on site within a listed or unlisted complex? If the complex is listed, how will this affect the potential for change, the appetite of the development industry and the site’s value? John  Walker also said the City Council do not want another 1 Hyde Park with very few residents and apartments.

The campaign being run by the 20th Century Society ‘Say neigh to demolition’ has a long way to run and this is just the start.

Resilient Cities

The Royal Town Planning Institute are running a series of seminars to celebrate their 100 year anniversary. Resilient Cities sounded an attractive one to attend. The location at Arup’s head office in Fitzroy Street was an added attraction.

What would be the expected topics? – Global warming, flooding, energy system resilience, sustainable transport, food, air quality? Actually no, none of these really figured as the main subject matter. It focused on three areas. LOcal, regional and UK wide.

The local, Kings Cross redevelopment by Argent, interesting in its detail of the role of the community, the processes and emphasis on robust master planning and consultation, but actually little on the application to redevelopment in general and the challenges and perseverance required by the more creative developer in achieving better outcomes. There is much to learn from Argent’s experience and Anna Strongman gave a good account of the main areas of her involvement from Section 106 negotiations with Camden through to the extensive programmes and strategies in place, many as a result of those negotiations. It was interesting to detect her criticism of CIL as an alternative to S106 particularly when it comes to more complex development. It is dangerous to pick on one comment to exemplify her experiences but the statement that resilience is built through conversations struck a cord. It will be interesting to see if these continuing conversations can grow into the richness that city living can bring.

At a city/regional level, Tom Bridges outlined the experience of Leeds, where he is Chief Economic Development Officer. The clue is in the job title, economic and development. The focus was therefore more about the future for business resilience in Leeds.

Dividing his presentation into four sections: knowledge/innovation and economic development: poverty and low pay: Connectivity: Devolution Tom addressed key issues in a logical manner but the lessons of the last 100 years were largely lost. His view that Leeds should build on its strengths and avoid the danger of putting all its eggs in one basket is to say the least disappointing. There is poverty in Leeds and Leeds have worked with the Joseph Rowntree Trust to address this, but nothing really apart from the need to upskill and raise wages was mentioned, hardly novel but probably the subject of a much longer presentation. In terms of connectivity, There was an uncritical acceptance that HS2 would be a great thing without questioning whether it would be a drain from Leeds, and in spite of showing a plan, no mention of the remoteness of the HS2 station from the main one which is now apparently the largest/most important North of England. Whether investment in HS2 would sort out the poor connectivity between Northern cities was not addressed. The wider Leeds region with its population of over 3 million and an economy of £53bn deserves more control over its budget, but there was no sense of what the City would actually do with that extra spending power. Maybe it doesn’t know? In the whole talk there was no mention of Bradford, rivalries die hard?

Andrew Carter of the Centre for Cities gave a presentation on the development , rise and fall of UK towns and cities to show how the last 100+ years demonstrates that resilience is a dynamic process in which luck plays a part along with, the ability to rebound from shock, adapt to global and local changes in politics, policies, the economy.

Mapping the effects of changes over that 100 years is fascinating. Comparing the effects on New York and Pittsberg of the decline and fall of the garment trade and the entrepreneurial spirit of NY is interesting. The decline of one industry towns and cities repeats the lesson that Leeds is applying – not putting all your eggs in one basket. Citing the effect of the growth of cheap flights and foreign holidays on Blackpool and Margate is nothing new, populations move to where there are jobs. High skilled jobs cluster and boom, but lower skilled jobs are also expanding.

Providing a balanced economy is not helped by restricting housebuilding through constraint on development, but we should accept that Cities constrained from developing by green belts will inevitably become more expensive. The lessons of Cambridge releasing green belt land is important. At the moment the biggest drop in opportunity is in the mid scale and pay area for which read administration, secretarial and middle management – areas most threatened by automation and the ability to type this blog without calling on a secretary to do the technical bits. Everything changes but much remains the same? – is that really true? Picking winners doesn’t work but are struggling cities beyond salvation.

I conversations later I wondered whether a comparison of Bristol and Liverpool as two cities built on trade and specifically the slave trade can now be seen as polar opposites among the second tier 8 major cities in the UK. There is no doubt that Bristol is succeeding in a number of areas, had the foresight to elect a mayor, develop as a tech hub to rival London and achieve European Green Capital 2015, whilst Liverpool, notwithstanding its cultural excellence music, drama, football teams struggles to compete. Is there a lesson there?

So little mention of climate change and resilience, questions from the floor on energy solutions for cities and cycling met with blank stares. A complete refusal to debate the question of whether growth was necessarily a good thing was dismissed as total rubbish by Andrew Carter. Centre for Cities, a non partisan policy research unit, should have a more considered view on the challenges as well as the opportunities of growth.




London’s Council Housing

New London Architecture run a great and very well attended series of Breakfast meetings to discuss issues of interests Architects, Planners and other Built Environment professionals.

On Tuesday a full agenda with contributions from Council representatives and their designers presented inner and outer London Borough approaches to new models for more affordable homes and the revival of council housing.

Changes to regulations have helped Councils to start redeveloping their estates. Options of borrowing against the HRA or General fund, GLA/HCA subsidies and external European sources of funding and joint ventures were all outlined. Within the relatively short time for each presentation these inevitably had to be simply presented, the detail is far more complex.

Similarly delivery models ranging from direct developments where funding is available, joint ventures and outright disposal of non-core assets as a means of raising funds were discussed and outcomes presented.

Design responses to individual challenges in the Boroughs represented both in Central London areas (Camden, Westminster), and outer London (Barnet, Barking and Dagenham, Ealing), were, sensitive to place and good sense. Hilary Satchwell of Tibbalds working collaboratively in the Bourne Estate demonstrated the complexity and opportunities that exist in the centre of London, whilst Andrew Beharrel working in Barking and Dagenham, explained that their work impproving post-war mono cultural council estate housing was in the DNA of PTEa, who have been doing this sort of thing for years.

All schemes presented had to suffer the delays caused by the financial crisis which had no doubt put great strain on these relatively small businesses. All demonstrated that housing that provides long term quality and management is possible.

What lessons are there for the future roll out of affordable housing in London? The further loosening of financial constraints on development are needed from central government specifically the Treasury. As Stephen MacDonald, representing Barnet Re (part of a Council/Capita regeneration organisation – questions of how that works would take a separate meeting) said, If Council’s are to deliver more, whilst having to bear current 25% and future 25% cuts in central government funding, then lobby your MP not the Council.

Academy of Urbanism Congress – lessons for the next Mayor of London.

London needs a Mayor for all the people….That’s an obvious statement.

At the Academy of Urbanism congress two weeks ago, a powerful case was made for a Mayor that embraces change, doing things differently and for the benefit of the wider community.

Starting with George Ferguson, hosting the Congress in Bristol where as a non-party Mayor he has encouraged Bristol to embrace environmental sustainability, delivering energy and food, encouraging the local enterprise economy with the Bristol £ and has the support of the local political leaders “who leave their party politics outside the door of his cabinet”. He has a mandate to change and working as the only Mayor in the 8 major city grouping of cities outside London has taken the lead on green issues.

Reeling off the achievements and goals of his mayoralty makes for good sound-bites but they convince as part of an overall Citywide strategy. Above all they address everyday residential needs. Its true that the City has had to endure the cuts as well as any other city but from the awards being given to the city from Rockefeller, Bloomberg and above all the Green Capital of Europe 2015, after many years of planning.

During the day presentations from Sue Riddlestone, Wulf Daseking , Peter Lord, Herbert Girardet and Marcus Grant covered sustainability from the global to local, the value of a place that encourages an entrepreneurial spirit and the challenges of healthy living in the city.  The demands and short-termism that so often result from a misunderstanding of the critical issues being faced across the world.

A rousing and invigorating talk from the ex Mayor of Curitiba , a place that has faced the challenges of a booming population, limited resources but a Mayor that brought the can-do to politics was a refreshing way to end. Focusing on the urban infrastructure of buses in his city Jaime Lerner showed why the urban infrastructure of movement was so critical to the success of his city. Making the bus your friend, with one a minute, when the city cannot afford to build a subway system. The car that drinks a lot and coughs a lot, the cigarette of the future. His three principles of innovation, practicality and simplicity making the difference. A city of structure and design. A planned city one might add and one that the children can comprehend.

Which brought us back to where George Ferguson had started – making children the heart of the city, with every child planting a tree for the future of the city.