In 2008 BBM became involved through their links with the University of Brighton with the SEEDA funded Places from Spaces programme. The project aimed to encourage new design thinking for urban public spaces and has enrolled the help of local universities and architects to create temporary schemes where communities can test creative schemes for transforming public spaces to ask ‘what if’ – what might be possible to reinvigorate them. It also gives architectural and engineering students real hands-on experience to build their employability potential, as well as bringing the fresh innovative thinking of academia to improve community places. BBM helped develop the briefs for the Brighton transformation and went on to project manage the implementation. The whole programme was carried out in close collaboration with local council officers and councillors.
The crowning achievement of the Brighton Project was a 700-tree temporary forest which transformed Victoria Gardens, an underused green space in Brighton’s Valley Gardens Conservation Area, in June of 2009. The idea was the outcome of an ideas competition given to the students of the School of Architecture at Brighton University and won by student, Lucy Palmer.
Additionally the students were asked the ‘what if’ question for the long term development of the whole surrounding area where the project was set, known as Valley Gardens. Four groups came up with stunning visions of what the spaces could become and how they could be used. These projects formed the basis of an exhibition stand where the public were invited to chose their favourite ‘what if’ scenario and make comments on the way the temporary transformation had effected Victoria Gardens. During the event week, over 800 responses were collected as messages placed into recycled water bottles at the stand.
After the temporary transformation, the trees will be planted at East Brighton Park, where they will be enjoyed by the local community for years to come.
Project leader, Ian McKay, visiting lecturer at the University of Brighton and partner in BBM Sustainable Design Ltd, says: “This is an experiment to test new ideas to help regenerate neighbourhoods and improve townscapes as well as create a sense of place and build community. We’ve been very grateful to officers and members of Brighton & Hove City Council who have judged our students’ concepts and advised on typical real-world constraints in applying design.”
The ‘Places from Spaces’ project also took place in Southampton and Portsmouth and was coordinated by the Solent Centre for Architecture and Design (SCA+D) and the Kent Architecture Centre.