This week’s blog story is by Chris Churchman of Churchman Landscape Architects, appointed as main contractor for completion of The Green Heart project:
Hello, my name is Chris Churchman. Chris Churchman Landscape Architects have worked all over the UK and have extensive experience in designing spaces within the higher education sector.
Creating a large open space at the heart of the campus represents a major opportunity, it offers:
- A place that the University can both identify with, and is recognised by;
- A common ground for the enjoyment of all parts of the academic community;
- A talking point, somewhere to dwell within, to engage with others, to trade and exchange ideas.
The Green Heart should be an active space supporting a diverse programme of events and uses, full of life throughout the day and at all times of the year. So the question is, how does the University fill this space that it is creating? And how does it ensure that people engage with it positively so that it is adopted as the central focus for student life rather than simply being a nice setting for the buildings?
To do this we believe The Green Heart needs to offer comfort, it needs ample spaces that meet user needs, whatever they might be. At a simple level it needs well-designed furniture, located in places that are sunny and sheltered, and include the sort of place that you might sit out in October through to March. It should provide spaces that have the flexibility to accommodate a diverse programme of uses and for a range of events, large and small. It should be well lit so that it offers a secure safe environment for evening use.
The space needs to be designed around the needs of all members of the academic community. Level changes on campus are challenging, for some it is currently difficult to negotiate, to travel from Arts to Muirhead or the Vale is currently not feasible for everyone. Early thoughts involve the use of a ramped bridge as a means of overcoming the most challenging access barriers.
We believe the space should be predominantly ‘green’ as the name suggests, but paved access routes need to recognise that the space is the point of connection across campus, people will pass through it many times in a day and in various ways, so paths need to be adequate in width and quality of surface.
Lastly, and most importantly, in order to be successful, the University has to breathe life into its Green Heart. As designers our role is to provide a stage that encourages occupations and adapts to the way in which people choose to use it.
The design is only at its starting point, and The Green Heart needs to develop narratives, it needs the students and the schools to adopt it, to enrich and to supplement it such that it can be perceived, interpreted and appreciated on many levels, so that the Green Heart has multiple facets and a diversity of meaning.
Right now there is a valuable opportunity to add your own thoughts as to what spaces and functions could or should be included in The Green Heart project. We would love to see your ideas and preferences in the comments section. If you prefer you can contribute to the polls which will be here in a few weeks time.