Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Spatial Planning Field Trip to Lyon - November 2016

The postgraduate students in Spatial Planning (31 in total) went on a field trip to Lyon recently (from 14 to 18 November 2016). The field trip was designed to provide students with practical examples and experience of planning in another European country. Students (and staff) had a great time taking in the sights and learning from local academics and practitioners. Click on the blue links for more information.

The old part of Lyon is a UNESCO World Heritage site with some stunning buildings and vibrant colours (enhanced by the beautiful weather during the trip). The students visited the La Confluence regeneration project by the rivers Soane and Rhone and enjoyed spending a day working with students from Institut d'Urbanisme in Lyon. There was a group meal on the third evening which was followed by a cultural trip to the Beaujolais Festival 2016 in the centre of Lyon. Take a look at the itinerary and photos (courtesy of John Carnie)...

On Monday 14 November the students flew from Gatwick to Lyon, checked into their hotel and then walked via the river (Rhone) to the Lyon Institute of Planning (Institut d’Urbanisme de Lyon or IUL for short) for a presentation on Spatial Planning in Lyon, by Dr Roelof Verhage (Director of IUL).

The next day (Tuesday 15 November), the students went on an introductory walking tour of the city centre in the morning, visiting the St Jean Cathedral, Place Bellecour, and crossing over the Rhone and Saone Rivers. The students moved onto the Part Dieu district for lunch and a presentation on planning in Greater Lyon (Lyon Métropole), by Gilles Sabaterie, from Agence d’Urbanisme de Lyon. And now the photos from Tuesday...
















On Wednesday 16 November the students visited IUL to work on projects in particular areas of the city, with some of the IUL students (in English). There were five sub-groups, looking at the following areas: Carré de Soie, Villeurbanne Gratte-Ciel, Part-Dieu, Croix Rousse - Bas des Pentes and La Duchère. This was followed by a group meal in the evening at Le Poêlon d'Or, a traditional Lyonnaise restaurant.

Thursday 17 November (and Beaujolais Nouveau Day). The students were off to the old part of Lyon for a walking tour and presentation with Philippe Lamy, Project Director, Mission Site Historique, Ville de Lyon. This was followed by a boat ride down the Saone from Vieux Lyon to La Confluence for a visit to La Confluence Visitor Centre, where the students saw a film and model, related to brownfield mixed use regeneration, and a walk through La Confluence. Take a walk through La Confluence yourself here.






























The last day: Friday 18 November. The students went to the Lyon Metropole for a presentation at on Transport Planning in Lyon. Then there was some free time for a final look at Lyon before returning to the UK with plenty of new information and experiences.







For more information on Spatial Planning at Oxford Brookes, click here.





Wednesday, 23 November 2016

MSc Historic Conservation: Derbyshire 2016

Report by David Garrard (more information behind the blue links)...

Who wouldn’t like to spend three golden October days swanning around a National Park, looking at old buildings and admiring the autumn foliage, all for £100? Students on the Oxford Brookes MSc Historic Conservation have all the luck. The residential field trip (in semester one) is a chance to study the historic environment of a particular region – this year, Derbyshire and the Peak District – in detail and at first hand. It’s also a chance for students and staff to bond in ways that are only possible whilst climbing up scaffolding in hi-vis and a hard hat. (Or if that doesn’t work, sitting by the fire in the pub.)

Our minibus set off from Oxford unfashionably early on Monday morning, and arrived in Derby in time for elevenses. The county town – a city since 1977 – achieved prosperity in the 17th and 18th centuries as a centre of textile and porcelain manufacture, and retained it in the 19th as a major transport hub and the headquarters of the Midland Railway. Despite industrial decline and some heavy-handed town planning in the post-war decades, the central conservation area still boasts a good stock of buildings of various periods, many now being revived as the city’s fortunes improve.


The city of Derby

Among Derby’s most notable monuments is the former Shire Hall, a red sandstone building in the Mannerist classical idiom of the 1650s, with additions of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. After a period of disuse and severe decay, it was repaired and extended just prior to the Millennium to form the new Derby Magistrates’ Courts. Penny McKnight, conservation officer at the City Council, showed us round as we discussed the thorny issue of how to graft new fabric onto an architecturally sensitive and physically fragile historic structure.


The Shire Hall

The Old Bell Hotel in Sadler Gate – our second visit – is another 17th century building retrieved from the brink of dereliction. Originally a coaching inn, it was given a heavy ‘Tudorbethan’ remodelling in the 1920s, which left it looking a bit like the set for Carry On Shakespeare. But its stuck-on half-timbering and faux heraldry (themselves now almost a century old) are viewed with affection by Derby citizens, and are now being lovingly repaired as part of a £1.2 million renovation scheme led by local entrepreneur Paul Hurst. Yesterday’s kitsch, tomorrow’s precious heritage…


The Old Bell Hotel

After lunch we drove north up the Derwent Valley. This corner of Derbyshire is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and has as good a claim as anywhere to call itself the ‘cradle of the Industrial Revolution’. It was here that, from the 1770s onwards, a group of engineer-entrepreneurs led by Richard Arkwright harnessed the power of the river and its tributaries (along with the latest developments in spinning technology) to establish the world’s first fully mechanised cotton mills, precursors of the great textile boom of the following century. Arkwright’s original group of mills survives at Cromford, where he also built a model town for his workers and a sprawling castellated mansion for himself. Almost demolished in the 1970s, the imposing 18th-century mills and warehouses have been laboriously cleaned up, stabilised and refitted by the Arkwright Society – whose head guide Peter South showed us round – to form a mixed-use complex incorporating offices, shops and a museum.

The mills at Cromford

Our base of operations was the YHA at Youlgreave, a small village nestled amid the limestone uplands of the White Peak. At dawn on Tuesday, a few hardy souls (those who hadn’t stayed too late at the Farmyard Inn) walked out to watch the sunrise from the Iron Age fort at Castle Ring, returning just in time for breakfast. Then – well, no field trip would be complete without a mildly embarrassing group exercise, preferably involving clipboards. Understanding the form and character of historic settlements is a key skill in conservation work, so each group of students was sent out around Youlgreave armed with maps and cameras, and asked to report back on a specific aspect of the village: its chronological development, layout and topography, architectural and townscape qualities, characteristic building materials and uses, and so on. We got some funny looks, but at least it didn’t rain.

Observing Youlgreave (with clipboards)

Next stop: Buxton. With its dramatic valley setting and lavish Neoclassical and Victorian architecture, this spa town resembles (as was very much the intention of its promoters, the Dukes of Devonshire) a miniature version of Bath. Its centrepiece is The Crescent, a grand semicircular terrace built in 1779-90 by the great north-country architect John Carr of York. Mothballed, neglected and riddled with dry rot, the huge Grade I-listed building has long been one of England’s biggest heritage headaches. After many failed schemes and abortive proposals, restoration works are now at last under way, with the intention of returning the Crescent to its original use: swish hotel accommodation on the upper floors and a reopened thermal spa below. The details of the scheme are frighteningly complex, making project architect John Ferguson (of Curious Architecture) an extremely busy man; so hats off to him for finding time to give us a behind-the-scenes tour, including a rare opportunity to visit Carr’s sumptuous Assembly Rooms.

The Assembly Rooms in Buxton

Wednesday morning found us in Wirksworth. Ancient capital of the Derbyshire lead-mining industry, this handsome market town with its fine 13th-century church and imposing Stuart and Georgian merchants’ houses had by the 1970s become a byword for deprivation and decay. Its revival began in 1977 with the launch of the ‘Wirksworth Project’, a pioneering heritage-led regeneration partnership between local interest groups, regional government and the Civic Trust. Funding was obtained for targeted public realm improvements and the renovation of key individual buildings, which in turn helped to stimulate further economic resurgence across the town. As Sally Barkley-Smith of the Wirksworth Heritage Centre explained, it is now one of the most desirable addresses in Derbyshire, something that has brought its own problems as locals are priced out in favour of well-to-do incomers: a useful reminder that the wider effects of regeneration are not inevitably benign.


In Wirksworth

Our final visit was to Hardwick Hall. This is probably Derbyshire’s most celebrated building: a many-towered Elizabethan fantasy, perched high on a bluff overlooking the River Doe Lea and (nowadays) the M1. Its founder was Elizabeth, dowager Countess of Shrewsbury, known to history as Bess of Hardwick, who in 1590-97 employed the architect Robert Smythson (and the enormous fortune that came to her on the death of her fourth husband) to develop the site of her modest ancestral manor into one of the great ‘prodigy houses’ of the age. The Hall’s exposed position leaves it particularly vulnerable to the effects of wind and weather, and – as our guide John Stubbs showed us – the National Trust is engaged in a continuous battle to preserve and repair the delicate external stonework. We returned to Oxford chastened but inspired by the magnitude of conservation’s neverending task.


And finally, Hardwick Hall.



Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Foundation in the Built Environment: London Field Trip 2016

The School of the Built Environment offers a Foundation in the Built Environment (FBE). The course is designed to develop understanding and problem-solving skills in areas which are fundamental to the environment, design and development of cities. Students are introduced to a variety of subjects that, with the correct choice of modules, will allow progress to one of the undergraduate degree courses offered within the School of the Built Environment.

The FBE students went on a field trip to The City of London last Friday (4 November). It rained. But it was still a good trip. I went along to take some photos of the sites visited. The field trip is part of the module 'Integrative and Contextual Studies' and allows students to explore the nature of the built environment and the parties and processes involved in building and maintaining it, as well as the bodies and factors influencing design and development. The students visited the site on which they would base their presentation and written work. There were 7 sites altogether and further information is given below - click on the blue links for more information.


The students arrived at The City Centre (based at Guildhall) for a series of presentations. The first from Lettie McKie (Education Manager at The City Centre) about the development of London based around the City of London model and the second from Daryl Perry (Principal Researcher at Bilfinger GVA).



Aldermanbury Square. And in particular the recent project at 5 Aldermanbury Square, as featured in Skyscraper News.


Paternoster Square. Redevelopment was completed in 2003. Although it's not to everyone's taste.


One New Change is a shopping centre in The City. Inspired by a Stealth Bomber and designed by the architect Jean Nouvel. It spends most of the time pretending it's not there. 


The Millenium  Bridge. Designed by Foster + Partners and completed in 2000. 


Tate Modern (including the recently completed Tate Modern Extension) and Bankside where a lot of development is taking place.


The view down a very wet Queen Victoria Street on the way to...


...Bloomberg Place. A new development designed by Foster + Partners


No.1 Poultry. Take a look around and see what you think of this postmodern building. 


The Lloyds Building with its insides on the outside (also known as Bowelism). And surroundings...including The Leadenhall Building (otherwise known as The Cheesegrater).


22 Bishopsgate. Building has restarted after coming to a halt 5 years ago...leaving what became known as 'the stump'. 



A video of the Broadgate development at Liverpool Street...the site that I didn't get to.


Back to London Guildhall. Cold, wet and ready for the journey home. A great day though.


More information on the Foundation in the Built Environment is available here.





Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Oxford Brookes Learning and Teaching Conference 2016

The Oxford Brookes Learning and Teaching Conference was held in the Urban Design Studio on 4 July 2016. The theme for this year’s conference was 'Learning on the Edge' and set out to explore the different influences that peripheral spaces: mental, digital, physical and liminal, can have on learning. Laura Novo de Azevedo from the School of the Built Environment was invited to co-chair the conference this year - find out more about Laura's interest in using mobile technology in teaching and learning (click on the blue link).


Laura getting her chair ready (photo by Andressa Minogue)

Registration opened at 9am with coffee and poster presentations in the Abercrombie Foyer. This was followed with an introduction to the conference and the four themes from Dr Laura Novo de Azevedo (School of the Built Environment) and George Roberts (Oxford Centre for Staff and Learning Development) and a welcome from Professor Julie McLeod (Pro Vice Chancellor for Student Experience). The keynote speech was given by Kirsti Lonka, Professor of Educational Psychology at University of Helsinki.

Coffee (and networking) was followed by a series of conference sessions and workshops, based around the themes of: Physical, Mental, Liminal and Digital spaces. These thematic ideas were explored using a range of different traditional, unusual, peripheral and sometimes inconvenient spaces in the studios of the Abercrombie Building which provided opportunities to create different challenging and edgy interactions. To what extent can these ideas of spaces sustained by imagination, inform our creation of learning spaces as spaces of play and experimentation?

Take a look at the programme for full details of all the sessions and the twitter feed #bltc16 for thoughts, discussions and highlights from the day. The conference concluded in the Urban Design Studio with a session distilling insights from the day.


Settling into the Urban Design Studio.

Introductions from George Roberts...

...and Laura Novo de Azevedo.

A virtual welcome from Julie McLeod.

The keynote session by Kirsti Lonka.

Lunch (and networking) in the Abercrombie Building.

Conference session about Google + and its application in academic interactive students' projects (Film Studies).

For more information, take a look at the conference website and also at the twitter feed #bltc16. Photos by Rachel Dixon.