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Review of Art & Architecture in the Project David Barrie, May 2005
“The city in its totality and beauty is made up of numerous different moments of formation; the unity of these moments is the urban unity as a whole.” – Architect Aldo Rossi, 1966 “Passaic seems full of ‘holes’ compared to New York City…monumental vacancies that define the memory-traces of an abandoned set of futures.” – Artist Robert Smithson, 1967
Introduction In a global market, the local is often sacrificed to the ‘national good’ and ‘interstitial’ places like the interiors of aircraft play a more prominent part in people’s lives. We also live in an age dominated by narcissism and privacy, exemplified by the gated community. However, towns and cities remain a unifying landmark and generate an amenity - which is why we like to live there. There is strong demand for places that serve our shared but private needs - shopping malls, markets and beaches - but there is also strong demand for places that we share with others on purpose, by virtue of sharing citizenship – town squares, town halls. Public places such as coffee houses and cinemas, online communities and collective ideas like neighbourhood and ‘Ibiza’ still resonate. It is this basic appreciation of the popularity of ‘place’ that inspires The Castleford Project and binds its creative activity. Project Direction When I first visited Castleford in December 2002, it was a rainy, overcast day and I was struck by a landscape of vacant, windswept plots totally lacking in incident. Not here, the relics of industrial archaeology, morphology of natural landforms or a personality shaped by architecture. Not here, shadows on the wall, real or imagined, that represent ‘thereness’. Not here, either surface or sign as expression. I know life through moments lived and, like many expect towns and cities to declare equivalent moments, in what American architects Colin Rowe and Fred Koetter once described as a “collage city”. I think that the momentous-ness of urban environments is episodic. We treat it like watching a film, editing out the bits that we don’t wish to see. Sometimes, the moment is a profoundly human one, perhaps a place where divisive boundaries are crossed. At other times, it is a pompous and brilliantly superficial, like the over-formal presentation of haute couture: “The Chanel bag with the inlaid silver chain”. Sometimes it is found. At other times, it is constructed: a scene painted by the Dutch painter Pieter de Hooch. Sometimes, it is a natural expression. At other times, the result of artistic intervention, such as artist Robert Smithson inserting mirrors in to the surface of a desert plain. In his book The Concise Townscape, writer Gordon Cullen viewed ‘place’ as an issue of the position of our body in its environment, an art of relationship that “When you go into a room you utter to yourself the unspoken words “I am outside IT, I am entering IT, I am in the middle of IT.”…no sooner do we postulate a HERE than automatically we must create a THERE.”
When developers Chris Brown and Roger Zogolovitch, regeneration and design advisors to The Castleford Project first joined me in the town, they noticed that there were key connections in the town that were severed, for instance between the town and its waterfront. These connections were manifest in intersections left to rack and ruin or soulless, poorly landscaped public realm with no relation to surrounding buildings – ‘Space Left Over After Planning’. To make or remake these spaces would be to improve the town’s quality of life and begin to extract value from some of the town’s underlying assets, such as its location close to a regional capital. It would also begin to help the town have edited highlights. It might begin to encourage a sense of HERE and THERE. We were aware of the rise of the idea of landscape as urbanism, of the role of open spaces in redefining the modern city; the frustration and lack of delivery associated with development programmes led by master plans; the linkage between revaluing and reprogramming public space and economic revitalization; and the fact that “Nearly every significant new landscape designed in recent years occupies a site that has been reinvented or reclaimed from obsolescence or degradation, as cities in the post-industrial era remake and redefine their outdoor spaces.” Some of these spaces are existing civic ones, like town squares. Others are abused, polluted or exhausted sites. Some are topographies, newly sculpted. Others are rationalised pre-industrial commons, where residents play or cultivate crops on urban/semi-urban landscapes. Many are at junction points in the town, places of passage and encounter. In two previous, television-related Projects, I had explored the opportunities of places like this, be it the underside of Spaghetti Junction in the West Midlands or a decommissioning nuclear power station in Snowdonia. In these Projects, I invited architects, engineers and others to come up with new blue-skies concepts for ‘dead’ spaces, be it architect Will Alsop, American environmental designers SITE, engineers Ove Arup & Partners or music composer Gavin Bryars. My initial interest in public space had been inspired by artists like Mark Rothko, Giorgio de Chirico and Piero della Francesca. Then I discovered American sociologist and filmmaker William H. Whyte and his investigations in to why some small urban spaces work for people, and some do not. Then the thought of Bernard Tschumi, the Swiss designer of Parc de la Villette in Paris, that “Architecture is defined by the actions it witnesses as much as the enclosure of its walls.” With Zogolovitch and Brown, I conceived of a process that placed the improvement of public space at the start, rather than be an end-product of the development of major sites. We decided to take multiple sites to realise multiple ideas, not a single thought – what architect Deborah Saunt describes as “a constellation of spaces that creates a big vision of small stars.” This was scoped by Zogolovitch and his team at AZ Urban Studio. Brown wrote an informal regeneration strategy for the town.
The project team prioritised design excellence, a key emphasis of the executive team at City of Wakefield. We worked on the principal that no one knows the detail and aspirations of communities better than the inhabitants themselves and devised ways in local people could become intrinsically involved in the process. We also emphasised multi-disciplinary professional engagement to mirror the multi-faceted nature of contemporary urban problems. A populist ‘boutique intervention’ was born, to use the words of architect Deborah Saunt, seeking to create new landscapes but also look at a place with new eyes and thereby act as a catalyst to change. The idea was to create an opportunity for revolutionary and incremental intervention, rather than revolutionary development and a scorched earth approach. Two years on, as a result of the support of the community and commitment of City of Wakefield to the Project, the following has been achieved: • • • • • • Five Projects on site, with a total of eleven to be completed by the close of 2005 a £10m development programme including leading architects and landscape designers and planner from the U.K., Europe and United States £190m of new investment in the town's retailing, housing and cultural life, including a new public library and transport interchange the release of over 150ha of 'brown' land for redevelopment, with the closure of two large chemical plants a programme of popular events that has involved 8000 local people in the renewal of their community, including special curriculum Projects in primary and secondary schools a cultural programme that includes newly commissioned installation art by top-class artists from Cuba and mainland Europe
Improving Castleford as a Place In October 2003, after running an extensive programme of public consultation and advertising for expressions of interest from architectural and landscape designers, the Project ran a design ideas competition. The design brief was the first expression of the Project and its relationship to Castleford as a place, setting the designers an agenda of helping “the people of Cas see their whole town in the way that it generated itself during the Industrial Revolution.” 1 Animating and improving the town centre When almost every other town centre in the UK today can boast at least one nationally-branded coffee shop, Castleford may be unique in not being able to do so. This lack of something so ubiquitous is symptomatic of the need for regeneration in the town and particularly in the heart of the community – the town centre – which provides only for rock-bottom needs. There are very few leisure facilities of any kind or quality. There is hardly anywhere decent to eat. This is at odds with the modern consumerist interests of the ordinary citizen and the growth of the town, expressed in new housing development and industrial investment on its periphery. Freeport – the factory shopping outlet located immediately to the south of the town, adjacent to the M62 motorway, has been developed as a regional draw, pulling shoppers from many miles away into its retailing offer. This has now been joined by ‘Xscape’ – a major leisure development built around a huge real-snow ski slope. Whilst these developments are really part of Castleford, their edge-of-town location and their economic drageffect of sucking the economy away from the town centre is a contemporary and provocative condition which the existing somewhat tired town centre needs to address. Cas retains less than 30% of the potential catchment spend on comparison goods and less than 24% on convenience goods – mainly due to the Leeds factor. The comparable figure for nearby Pontefract is 66%. The Carlton Lanes shopping centre dominates the civic centre of Castleford while the surrounding streets, including Carlton Street (the ‘High Street’), have suffered from economic decline and need new life pumping back into them. One Project that has emerged is the rejuvenation of Carlton Square itself – a popular but cluttered, run down space that is the notional civic heart of Castleford. 2 Moving the market into the square and environs Various rearrangements over the years, including the development of the Carlton Lanes shopping centre, have seen what was a thriving outdoor market move into an unsatisfactory location sandwiched between the railway line and the south elevation of the shopping centre. It has declined as a result. The market could be liberated from its present location and used to help animate and promote the town centre and in the process help restore its fortunes and those of the town centre. There are strong views about where it should move to.
3 Transforming Tittle Cott Bridge Just south of the market’s existing location is the delightfully named Tittle Cott Bridge. It is in fact a narrow, run-down subway under the railway line immediately to the east of Castleford railway station. Despite its diminutive proportions, it is the central pedestrian link between the southern half of the town and the town centre, which are divided by the east-west route of the railway line. Not only that, but it provides immediate access from a large popular car park on the south side of the line to Carlton Lanes shopping centre on the north. Opportunities of widening and deepening the subway have been examined with Network Rail, but no practical solution that is within current budgets has been found to date. So it is designers’ imagination that will be needed to generate this transformation. There is a small but potent site, which currently belongs to a local developer, located on the south side that can be used as part of the design proposal for this important link. 4 Connecting the town to the waterfront At present Castleford turns its back on its most striking natural asset. Just north of the town centre is a sweeping ox-bow loop in the River Aire which features a large weir. Not only that, but just upstream from this loop, the river Calder joins the Aire and there is also a lock into the Aire & Calder navigation canal forming a dramatic ‘crossroads’. Like many towns that grew up in the industrial revolution, Castleford’s river became polluted and many of its most pragmatic buildings occupied the southern river bank leaving no space for public access. Now the river has almost recovered its natural character and salmon have returned as pollution has departed. How can the town centre be connected back to the riverfront so that the people of Castleford come to see the river for what it is – a feature that most towns (and cities) would be deeply envious of? New routes and destinations need to be established to achieve this. 5 Integrating the Forum Project Designers should be aware that an existing Project called Castleford Forum is at the feasibility stage and forms part of Yorkshire Forward’s urban programme for the town. It is an as yet undesigned proposal supported by a large section of the community that would re-occupy the car park to the north of Carlton Lanes and to the east of Sagar Street and which would lead down to the river. A business case for the proposal is to be made by consultants later this year. Its name is a conscious reference both to the outdoor market that used to occupy this site and Castleford’s significant Roman history. Ideas that link the centre to the river need therefore to handle this proposal sensitively especially if they interact with the proposed site for this scheme. Arguments for doing so will need to be convincing. 6 Opening up the riverside Once the riverside is reached there is no obvious destination. Ways of opening up the riverside to the town centre are needed and also desirable
riverside destinations or points of fresh departure. There is a ‘gap’ site on the south bank just east of the mill and weir which could be the site of a discrete Project. There may be other opportunities on the north bank where there is a pedestrian right of way along the river bank. Visual links from the river to the town centre would help re-establish and reintroduce the key relationship between the town and the original reason for Castleford’s existence, which is of course the river. 7 Crossing the river Originally Castleford was the site of an important Roman ford that crossed the river from the point at which the present-day Church Street on the south bank intersects with Savile Road. Could this be the site of a new bridge? Equally, could the weir be built upon sensitively to allow pedestrians to cross the river above and observe aquatic activities beneath? Further east, Castleford Bridge, the main vehicular and pedestrian crossing to the northern part of the town and beyond to the beautiful, dramatic landscape of the Ings, is inadequate and unsafe, particularly for pedestrians because of its narrow width and two-lane traffic. The location of any crossing will need to be supported by convincing arguments about pedestrian movements and lines of desire. 8 Connecting with the canal, the landscape and the Ings To the north beyond the loop of the Aire in the town centre lies the Aire & Calder Navigation canal, and beyond that the beautiful, dramatic landscape of the Ings created from the former colliery spoil heaps that surrounded Castleford before their closure in the 1980s. What were once harsh but lucrative industrial assets have become under-utilised potential leisure destinations. They now offer an extraordinary series of natural and man-made resources, sweeping around the northern edge of the town. Welcome recognition of this potential came recently with SUSTRANS’ agreement to purchase the former railway between Allerton Bywater and Castleford town centre, including the magnificent steel rail bridge crossing the river. 9 Connecting Fryston and Airedale into the town Moving further east along the Aire and Calder is the mining ‘village’ of New Fryston, then the river bends south and contains large green areas to the east of the suburbs of Airedale and Ferry Fryston, while the north of the river are the Ings. How can a circular rural route that links Airedale, Fryston, the landscape and the canal best be realised? 10 Making The Green at Ferry Fryston safe and beautiful In Ferry Fryston is a formal rectangle of open space that has become unloved and virtually derelict. It is an asset that can be brought back to life and to form a visual link with the wilder landscape beyond to the east, and thereby link to the rest of Castleford’s amazing landscape. The Castleford Project’s activities with the community have helped to establish a community group – The New Friends of The Green – which has over 90 signed up members and has already established energetic views about the future of The Green and its future governance.
11 Developing a pocket park strategy for Wilson Street At the western end of the town centre, west of Church Street a series of terraced streets run south and north off Wilson Street. Demolition and dereliction have left a series of empty plots and people are angry that the external environment of the area has fallen into neglect. These plots provide opportunities for inserting ideas that regenerate these sites while introducing animation and restoring a stronger sense of community to the area. There are also opportunities for restoring/reviving degraded passageways. Within Koetter Kim’s early ideas for Castleford it has been suggested that the town centre needs to restore its former residential densities and streetscapes. The Wilson Street area is seen as a potential model for how other inner areas could accommodate new homes and create new urban lifestyles at the heart of the town. 12 Cutsyke Projects Cutsyke is a tightly knit suburb of Castleford just to the north of the M62, composed predominantly of purpose-built semi-detached and terraced council housing. Some houses have large gardens. There are large underused neglected public spaces and the area is in need of substantial revitalisation to prevent further decline. The local community, assisted by Groundwork, has been very active in seeking schemes that stop this decline and provide the kind of facilities people have expressed an interest in. Notably these include sorting out the allotments to the south of Cutsyke Avenue and developing a tri-partite playground to provide opportunities for local young people on a site adjacent to a Groundwork community garden that is about to enter construction. There is a clear need in the area for some private gardens to be improved and items such as bus shelters and local routes to be upgraded. Increasing social problems associated with decline mean Cutsyke has a pressing claim for help with regeneration. Designers will find input from the community and from Groundwork helpful and essential.
The Designers’ Response “Each work occupies a space; it also engenders and fashions that space.” – Philosopher Henri Lefebvre, 1974 Since their appointment by City of Wakefield in 2004 on the recommendation of the community and Project Steering Group, a top flight team of designers, Project leaders from the local community and Project managers appointed by the local authority have developed designs for a series of highly localized sites. Town Centre: Hudson Architects “Carlton Square” forms a centre point to Hudson Architects’ overall scheme for the regeneration of Castleford.
Existing street furniture is rearranged to one side in order to leave a more open space, which along with a low podium will be used for public events. A group of fountains provides a focal point to this space when it is not in use. A new cafe is proposed to one side of the square, enlivening the space and providing a facility for the market stall holders. A glade of trees forms a canopy over the cafe’s tables. An art scheme is being devised with public artist Pierre Vivant.
As befits a quintessentially British and also object/interiors-orientated firm, the market stalls are a key to Hudson Architects’ scheme. They have developed the design of these in association with the Royal College of Art and B2 Consultants. The stalls are permanent pieces of street furniture; the canopies unfold during the day to shelter market tables and then fold up overnight. Lighting is embedded in the stalls to provide task lighting during the day which when closed - makes the stalls glow.
Town Centre: DSDHA For the subway that is a key entry point in to the town centre, architects DSDHA have reviewed the experience of travelling through a narrow tunnel and sought to create a new public space to the south side.
Deborah Saunt and her team are inspired by the ideas of urban sociologist Ray Oldenburg who writes about the importance of informal gathering places and how bars, coffee shops, general stores, and other "third places" (in contrast to the first and second places of home and work), are central to local democracy and community vitality. In Saunt’s words, these are “alternative infrastructures” that make towns desirable social and economic places, in contrast to the “short-lived rape and plunder” of the leisure/retail model on the periphery of the town. With lighting artist Martin Richman and engineer Jane Wernick, DSDHA plan to create a new public place whose focal point is a sculpted seat, stratified with references to the town’s material history.
‘Castleford Bay’: Mc Dowell + Benedetti With Arup Water and Alan Baxter Associates, architect Renato Benedetti has been developing the concept of a floating or fixed structure which connects the town and its water space and ‘Duck Island’ to the North.
Essential to the scheme is a Belvedere on the north bank and a new public promenade to the south.
Benedetti believes that in cities, it is the public spaces that are the infrastructure and objects such as bridges act as “the soft connecting tissues”. At night Benedetti plans to turn ‘Castleford Bay’ in to a magical place, realising a ‘string of pearls’ in light.
Castleford Waterfront Follies: Sarah Wigglesworth Architects Sarah Wigglesworth is best known for her house in London which uses a wide range of innovative materials including straw bales, sandbags, gabions and quilted cloth – an attention to the stuff of architecture which won her the RIBA Sustainability Award 2005 and she is bringing to a new studio and dance complex for the Siobhan Davies dance company. “For too long architecture has erected a defensive wall around itself, technically refining matter and twiddling with form in the deluded belief that this alone is enough. It is time to cross over these self-defined walls and engage with wider cultural forces.” In Castleford, Wigglesworth has been asked to draw up a first stage action plan for the improvement of access to the River Aire.
She has also developed a series of designs for seating and fishing follies at strategic points adjacent to the waterside and connected with plans laid out by Hudson Architects and McDowell + Benedetti. Three of these will be constructed within the context of The Castleford Project.
“We suggest that the real productive potential for architects lies in an endless movement between engagement and retreat. Engagement as social beings (eating, farting, fucking), as users of spaces (and no different to the many other users of spaces), as political beings (where the personal is, as she says, political).”
Village Green, New Fryston: Martha Schwartz At New Fryston, on the site of demolished housing adjacent to the former Fryston & Wheldale colliery, American landscape architect Martha Schwartz has created her first open space in the UK.
Schwartz’ approach to ‘place’ is to combine landscape and geometry and form a memorable image – a connection has been drawn between her work and the minimalist sculptors Carl Andre and Frank Stella.
“Given the nature of our built environment, the use of geometry in the landscape is more humane than the disorientation caused by the incessant lumps, bumps and squiggles of a stylised naturalism. Geometry allows us to recognize and place ourselves in space and is more formally sympathetic to architecture.”
Cutsyke Playforest: Estell Warren Landscape Adjacent to a new community garden, on common land set aside from a council estate, a children's 'play forest' has been commissioned from Estell Warren Landscape Architects. It is an experience that the designers describe as “a high energy 3-D puzzle, no way in, no way out.” The original concept for the scheme came from the youth section of the Cutsyke Community Group in an action-planning event in Autumn 2003. The group wanted a climbing experience that was exclusive to local young people, a playful place that that they could call their own. The forest is now under construction.
Green, Ferry Fryston: Parklife At The Green, Ferry Fryston, the community and landscape planner Phil Heaton of Parklife are creating a new play space. In conjunction with the new Friends of the Green group, Parklife has run many design events, including ‘Parties in the Park’ attended by thousands of local residents. In part, this approach is informed by Heaton’s unwillingness to let design be dictated by manufacturers of equipment or furniture. This is a political position to creating places for play that is a reaction to the constraints imposed upon and expressed in many play schemes in the UK.
The plan is to create a new entrance to the Park and a play space at its centre: a soft landscape keyed to Heaton’s favourite aesthetic of moonscapes and volcanoes. He is designing the scheme in collaboration with Oyster Park Junior School and Yorkshire based, metalworking artist Chris Campbell.
Urbanism and the creation of an Event Space All designers participating in the Project would identify themselves as ‘urbanists’ – planners, not just designers who immediately grasp the meaning, relationship and value of their work to fostering and participating in an urban social life. They epitomise a generation tutored in the merits of public space and the value of design intervention, pioneered by the likes of architect Cedric Price, 60s imagists Archigram and ‘The Cambridge School’ of architectural design – ideas expressed in initiatives like the Urban Task Force and Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment. In part this is another expression of the traditional modernist idea of architecture and its power to propagate social change. However, it is also a commitment to design as a catalyst to urban renewal on a scale below that of a master plan: a localism that has proven its value in places such as Barcelona, Lyons and Curitiba, Brazil. All designers participating in the Project are driven by an interest in what they see as a democratic deficit in the genesis and delivery of urban regeneration schemes and they believe in inspiring the public to want more and get involved in the evolution of their public realm. All are against sprawl and understand that urban flight leaves in its wake a fractured community and faded sense of spirit. All understand the value of planting an idea and believe that genuine communal value is the standard against which urban change should be considered. In effect, they subscribe to the Project’s informal, non Master Plan approach, an ethos echoed by the 60s idea of ‘Non-Plan’, pioneered by journalist Paul Barker, planner Peter Hall, cultural critic Reyner Banham and Cedric Price. The idea was to bring a new sense of freedom to people and enable them to take control of their built environment. In the words of journalist Paul Barker: “What would happen if there were no plan? What would people prefer to do, if their choice were untrammelled?” What participating designers have subscribed to within The Castleford Project is something similar. They have shown themselves capable of working without a grand plan. In the words of project design advisor Roger Zogolovitch, they are “floating in a net. The Project is elemental. It is an idea of multiples, not a single thought.” Knowing the limitation of architecture in addressing the question of how people practically use public space, the Project enlisted the support and advice of architects Jan Gehl and Lars Gemzoe, apostles for the pedestrian use of public space and tutors at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Art.
In an early phase of design development, Gehl and Gemzoe advised architectural teams on movement in the town. In their analysis, they encouraged the Project to celebrate certain values in their design, values espoused by American sociologist William H. Whyte and expressed by the organisation he founded in the United States, Project for Public Spaces: “Four key ingredients make for a great place: Accessibility, Activities, Comfort and Sociability.” In one of Whyte’s immortal phrases, “What attracts people most is other people.” Many of the participating architects use natural materials, place special emphasis upon art and play and appear to understand, like landscape architects, that designs are to be continually adapted and transformed. In the words of urban designer and landscape architect Adrian Geuze of West 8, who expressed an interest in participating in the project but was not selected by the community: “We have learned to see landscape not as a fait accompli but as the result of countless forces and initiatives.” In many cases, the designer has approached the site as an ‘event space’. Some have simply arranged objects in a given space, be it the cairn that features at the centre Martha Schwartz’ open space design or the oversized rocks that edge and define Parklife’s play space. Others have sought to create objects that provoke new activity. On one level, site as ‘event space’ is simply responding to the brief for the design competition which asked for permanent ‘objects of enchantment’. On another, in the nature of their approach to site, the scale of their work and the work’s creation of its ‘own’ space, the designs express themselves and their site as an environmental installation.
Intervention of Visual Artists Wolfgang Winter and Berthold Hörbelt “To experience a structure is not to receive it into oneself passively: it is to live it, to take it up, assume it and discover its immanent significance.” – Philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty, 1962 In 2005/06, artists Wolfgang Winter and Berthold Hörbelt are to present a temporary exhibition in Castleford and its surrounding towns. From Münster, Germany, Winter & Hörbelt first gained an international reputation for their production of ‘crate houses’: beautiful, light-filled, functional pavilions constructed from recycled bottle crates. They have been used as meditation spaces, information kiosks, a light-house and cinema. The artists also work with resin, plastic and steel – as used in their steel basket, presented at an exhibition at Yorkshire Sculpture Park in 2004.
In the catalogue accompanying the show, Clare Lilley of the Sculpture Park drew attention to the relationship between Winter & Hörbelt’s work and the idea and reality of crossing, viewing and occupying space. She connected their ‘behavioural space’ with the idea of a social sculpture. “Their walk-in structures both reveal (enclosed space, views) and filter (surrounding space, views) and they are made complete only when entered and used.”
Carlos Garaicoa Carlos Garaicoa was born, lives and works in Havana, Cuba. In 2006, he will visit Castleford and in a one-month residency, create an artwork for display in the town. He visited Castleford for research purposes in early 2005. In the early 1990s, Garaicoa became known for his interventions in public places. He would anonymously post signs around Havana listing the mystical powers of numbers like ‘6’ or ‘39’ or announcements such as ‘Dear resident: This next Sunday this building will become a different one. Your life will also change'. Carlos seeks to address Cuba's politics and ideologies through the examination and creation of utopias and is building a body of work that has already featured at Documenta XI and in a major show at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles.
Interested in urban planning and the architectural social fabric of the city, Garacoia often illustrates his utopia in large installations using various materials, such as crystal, wax candles, and rice-paper lamps.
He has created pop-up books depicting decrepit turn-of-the-century buildings in Havana and sculptures exploring utopian space using chess.
The city is there, waiting for you…Over time she grows, becomes more complex, fugitive….This web of experiences affects, contaminates, reflects upon, and is projected onto the city’s architecture and urban planning, her temperature and airs, her skies and stars, her buildings, corners, texts, languages, and peoples.
Creation of an Art Space: 2 Sagar Street When The Castleford Project started in February 2003, we recognised that we needed to help create conditions for change in the town. The Project needed to prioritise and deliver design excellence, create economic strength, take responsibility for the quality of environment, support and invest in urban government and prioritise social well being – the fundamentals of ‘urban renaissance’. We knew that securing high quality urban environments has as much to do with public awareness of urban design, as it is about the skills of the professionals involved in the management and implementation of schemes. We knew that the measure of a successful town or city rests with its people, the strength of their attachment to a place and their ability to join forces in the ongoing process of regeneration. To create an atmosphere in the town other than neglect, we thought that it would be useful to run a programme of ‘cultural events’, parallel with the development and delivery of capital works, much in the spirit of successful Garden Festivals of the 1980s and early 90s. To pull focus, we created a project office in the centre of Castleford which also expressed the town’s determination to deal with empty, under-utilised buildings that blight its fabric – places described by the Urban Task Force as “small gashes that render our urban texture spoilt.”
The Castleford Town Centre Partnership acquired the lease of a derelict furniture store at a key, strategic location on a street connecting the town centre with the waterfront and lend use of the site to the Project. The shop was refurbished as an exhibition space and community venue.
Opening in September 2003, the site has since hosted events that have attracted over eight thousand people and become a bridging point between the dream and reality of the town and its regeneration. The location has hosted exhibitions of the work of sculptor Henry Moore, a son of Castleford, organised by the Castleford Heritage Group and supported by the Henry Moore Foundation; several exhibitions of visual art by graduates of the Royal College of Art, London, Moore’s former school; several architectural exhibitions related to our programme of work, design workshops, dance nights, formal council meetings and quirky local creative events, such as artist and writer Brian Lewis and Harry Malkin producing sixty-seven artworks in twenty-four hours in celebration of their sixty-seventh birthday and in passing tribute to They Shoot Horses Don’t They.
New and Familiar Eyes on a Place
The connection between the Project, local culture and regeneration reaches beyond offering artists an exhibition space. It is about identity. If the Project’s architectural program is about what to do THERE, how to create a sense of HERE, the relationship between the Project and local art and culture is about creating opportunities for people to win a new and different understanding of the meaning of HERE. This is a simple, new quest, brilliantly expressed by writer Marcel Proust as “The real voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” Inspired by innovative heritage trails in the United States, such as REPOhistory in Atlanta and the Boston Women’s Heritage Trail, the Project encouraged the Castleford Heritage Group in early 2004 to develop and deliver a series of walks in the town related to its cultural, industrial and social history. The hope of the Project was that trails would involve local artists, connect with and extend its spatial and psychological impact and usefully explore ideas of time, movement, place and permanence. The most powerful and exciting amenity group in the town, the Castleford Heritage Group, had always been interested in the theme of marking history, underlining the covenant and contract between past and present. The arrival of the Project offered a moment when a proposal for a piece of work could be put together. The first trail, themed to the life and work of Henry Moore and created by artist Harry Malkin and writer Ian Clayton is now being developed with local people and will be delivered in 2006. “In Castleford, there are what are called sand holes. They’re caves where the sand has been excavated and run into the side of certain hillsides, quite a long distance, and you can get lost in them. As boys we would take a reel of cotton many yards long and go in to the caves. But one wouldn’t go further than the cotton because it was dark. The caves always had this fascination for me, these holes did.” – Henry Moore, 1973 The Project has coupled this dynamic, didactic approach to expressing the town and its past with a dynamic, expressive attitude towards its identity in the present. We have done this in two ways: direct creative work and educational initiatives. In 2003, graphic artist Peter Anderson created a temporary installation in the main street and square of the town out of comments made by local people during our programme of public consultation.
Anderson is a graduate in graphic design and fine art – as well as a tutor at Camberwell College of Art - who mixes gallery shows with corporate identity work and interior design with outdoor installations. So alongside his type work for commercial clients like Moschino and Nike and interiors for restaurants and bars, Anderson constructed an installation around the coast of St Lucia in 1998, painting culturally significant numbers on coloured wooden poles – not unlike Garacoia’s work with numbers on walls in Havana.
In Castleford, Peter collected memorable opinions, at times abstract comments on the town stated by local people at public meetings in clubs, pubs, through street surveys and at ‘action planning’ events in 2003. Anderson printed his choice of people’s phrases on ribbons of coloured paper and attached them to lamp-posts in the town centre. On one level, it was a novel way to report back community consultation. On another, it was an effective external expression of a place and its self-image.
A second important strand of visual arts activity, related to the idea of identity, has been our collaboration with local schools. Young people have been instrumental to the design development of neighbourhood projects in Cutsyke, Wilson Street and The Green, Ferry Fryston. They have also participated in a ancillary programme developing their curriculum on the built environment, organised by the West Yorkshire Educational Service. It is at The Green that the vision of young people in the town has been best expressed. Students from Oyster Park Junior Infants School, which overlooks The Green, have been instrumental to developing a new vision for the space.
Working in collaboration with the designer, teachers at the school have set students projects, asking them to visualise their idea of the present space –
and come forward with their vision for the future –
and participate in the final design, such as the creation of this artwork for a mural to be created at a main entrance to the Green. In effect, express what they want from the world about them.
Self-Actualisation and the Art of The Castleford Project 'Boutique' architectural intervention, the commissioning of visual artists to produce new work, the engagement of the local arts community in the expression of a town and its identity, The Castleford Project has enabled serial creative engagement with the town. This activity has a direct functional purpose, be it in support of the physical improvement of a dangerous subway, the creation of a link between the town and the participation of potential vandals in the design and development of a neighbourhood scheme. It also has a cynical intent. To journalists, art images well. To some consumers, it reads as hip. To investors, it declares self-confidence. In effect, the engagement of a deprived, former mining town with creativity of the highest order lends the place instant new value – and exploits the idea that art as a language can position any sponsor. However, the extent to which such a creatively rich process has been devolved and taken up by the community is important. It suggests that the town is not a vulnerable place that has lost its ego, sense of place or pride: and that’s why its inhabitants, by espousing high quality architectural design and art are not, behaving like “patsies for quantum leaps and architectural acrobatics.” Certainly, to an extent, when one talks of art and culture, the real subject is money. But something less manipulative and more honest is also going on, an idea which was best expressed by the artist Paul Klee: “Art does not reflect the visible; it renders visible.” In every which way, The Castleford Project has sought to heighten and differentiate the town and its self-image. It has done this in several ways, such as re-awakening the community to its role as client, personalising each project, working on a localized scale, ensuring the appointment of a series of designers and artists capable of realising a customized design. A key motivation in this has been to establish a principle of self-exploration and create a unique activity that maximises potential and complements an age of psychological individuality and self-determination. This suits an idea of the civic in which the public realm, our outdoor living room, becomes an opportunity for self-actualisation, in which 'dead' space lives as an enabler of change and an opportunity for people to self-design their identity. Whether that change is true or false, art is an invaluable device by which the viewer can be presented with an image of enhanced creative capacity, another kind of artificial mirror that allows people to call a landscape and its creation their own.
A Note on the Author David Barrie is a producer and director of TV programmes and projects who was employed, until April 2005, as Director of the Project by City of Wakefield and Executive Producer by Talkback Thames. Currently, he is a member of the Project Steering Group. For over thirteen years, David has made documentary and factual television programmes for BBC Television, Channel 4, Channel Five, ITV, National Geographic Channel (Europe), CNN (Atlanta) and WNET (New York). Highlights include films on human rights abuses in West Africa, the death of rock star Michael Hutchence and single editions of Omnibus, The Late Show and Dispatches. In 1994, Barrie conceived of and organised an architectural design initiative for the BBC that sought an alternative future for a decommissioning nuclear power station in Snowdonia, North Wales. This was the subject of a TV series, book and art exhibition at the National Museum of Wales, Cardiff and Royal Institute of British Architects, London. Barrie ran a similar project for the BBC on the space beneath the iconic cloverleaf road interchange known as ‘Spaghetti Junction’ in 1990: a project shown in a special single edition of BBC Television’s The Late Show. David takes a special interest in the role that the media can play as an instrument for democracy and the added value that it can leverage from its ownership of a licence or brand. In the take-up of interactive television and participation in multi-platform broadcast initiatives, viewers are fast establishing themselves as adopters of a form of broadcasting that is a channel of communication, not just a mechanism for the delivery of content, a media that relates to its audience as a series of communities and assumes a role not just as a protagonist but also an architect of the public realm.
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