Oxford Brookes IARD SymposiumIARD stands for International Architecture Regeneration and Development. I recently attended this symposium at Oxford Brookes University to keep up to date with what is going on in the world of regeneration and to hear from some fascinating speakers particularly FCB studios and Cullinan Studio. Here are my brief notes from the symposium:

– Trevor Osbourne from the Trevor Osbourne Group and Robert Adam of Adam Architecture had the same message – place sells – place is important to ensure regeneration. Where TOG develop, nearby flats, houses, developments double in value. Although it is expensive to do so you need to create a place before people have confidence enough to invest or buy homes.

– Tim Brennan Senior Regeneration Advisor for English Heritage. Heritage sells. When surveys are done from people who visit this country, it is always in the top viewing priorities.

– Geoff Rich spoke about the layers of change in historic buildings which is part of what makes them so interesting and the influence of Charles Correa after visiting India (Charles Correa exhibition currently on at the RIBA Portland Place, London) who specialises in using a traditional Indian vernacular in new ways in his buildings, giving them layers of meaning and cultural understanding. He spoke about FCB studios (specifically the Creative Reuse studio) and it’s projects namely the Feildbarn project, Chedworth Roman Villa regeneration, Bath Abbey regeneration and innovative use of underground thermal waters to provide heat for the abbey.

– Niall Phillips from Purcell (formerly Purcell Miller Tritton) spoke about their regeneration of Clifton Pier and there is a need for regeneration to provide work spaces, with 400,000 new business start ups, they need a place to reside. Also a good tip on how to get warring factions to work together – compile a questionnaire, get both sides to answer, they will realise their answers and therefore their objectives are the same and finally agree to work together and get on with the project! Architects are peacemakers as well as everything else! He also mentioned the importance of a proper revenue plan, it’s all very well having a big idea, but will it pay in the long term? There is no point it opening only for it to close a few weeks later. Get people involved with regeneration, they pull at the heart strings and can make it easier to get funding.

– Robin Nicholson of Cullinan Studio, a very engaging speaker hijacked the talk slightly (which I very much enjoyed) by hi-lighting some environmental issues. He showed us a simple formula engineered by a friend of his: Halve the demand, double the efficiency, halve the carbon intensity and you will only need 1/8th of the energy we need now. 85% of the energy at it’s source is lost by the time we use it due to heat loss and travel to our locations. We are very wasteful with the energy we produce, even the Germans (who are streets ahead of us in terms of green streets, green policies, green energy, green buildings, cycle lanes everywhere etc etc etc) now need to redesign the grid as 95% of their energy now comes from solar instead of power stations so the connections tree is the wrong way round (quote Robin Nicholson).

At the end of the symposium we had a more open discussion and Marcel Vellinga (author of Vernacular Architecture in the 21st Century, co-editor of Vernacular Encyclopaedia of the World amongst other things) said that the symposium had very much focused on urban regeneration (with the exception of Feildbarn by FCB studios), he would be keen to hear more about what is happening in more traditional environments, small scale rural, village regeneration. This is certainly something that rings true with me, as a village based architect, I am keen to promote village regeneration and business connections with more urban areas. Major obstacles seem to be planners and not great wifi and transport connections.

I left with many ideas and above all encouraged that there is a lot of good work going on in this country despite the recession.