Guest Blog – Impact on Design

We asked Chris Churchman, Founder and Director of Churchman Landscape Architects how the information that we have gathered from you has impacted upon their design for the Green Heart.

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The recent consultation exercise by Nomad has provided us with valuable insights into the way that you currently use the outdoor spaces and the way that you like to see the  Green Heart develop.  Fortunately, many of your thoughts are aligned with ours, so there is no need for a  fundamental restructuring of the plan. However, there was a different emphasis on certain areas, and this will help us to refine the scheme to achieve a better fit with your aspirations.

The fact that 81% of you enjoy spending time outdoors demonstrates the importance of the project, and with only 6% not wanting to work outside, it does seem that you value the role that green spaces play on campus.

When we started working on the project we felt that it should promote serendipity and this would seem to be echoed by your feedback; University Square is said to be the place where you bump into people.

Many of you cite the historic features and the natural characteristics of the elements that make the Green Heart a special place. We feel that the current design achieves this by opening up the grand axis around Old Joe.   We have retained all the major trees, and we will plant much more,   160  in total. The trees have been chosen to attract indigenous fauna including bats, swifts,  house sparrows and hedgehogs so that the  Green Heart will be a very natural environment at the heart of campus.

There was significant enthusiasm for a scheme that supports performances, events and markets. This chimes with the design which incorporates a variety of spaces and spatial configurations that can be used by staff and students in many ways. The design includes a major amphitheatre for concerts and outdoor cinema, a new café complete with small stage and generous pathways which can accommodate market stalls and displays.

There were mixed and diverse views about the importance of referencing the University’s academic work, although a majority felt it should do so. The design provides the opportunity for the future addition of features that specifically reference current research and technology, and we are really providing a canvas that can be embellished and can evolve with time.

The need for spaces to eat, relax and work was a strong theme which endorses the level of generous seating that we are providing. It is helpful that people have called specifically for more tables, to some extent this is already being provided outside the new library, but we will add more.  Some respondents requested covered seating and workspace, a view that we share. This will in part be addressed as part of the new café, but we would like to add more if there is significant support to do so.

There were split views regarding the incorporation of technology; half those asked felt that the space should remain green, relaxing and focused around nature, which probably reflects what has been provided in the current proposals. Some technology focused elements have been added including paving that generates energy when walked on. All of the Green Heart will be wifi enabled, but there are currently no mobile phone charging points. If future consultation indicates there is a stronger desire for the integration of additional technology, then it can still be added without impacting on the overall scheme.

There also seemed to be support for the Green Heart to be informative on a number of levels, about the history of the campus but also about current thinking and trends. Again we believe the proposals provide the opportunity for these elements to be added.

Lastly, we would like to thank everyone who responded and would encourage you to continue to do so, the more people engage with the process, the richer it will become. We feel that the scheme will only become really successful if you take it to your hearts, it is essential that you own it and shape it.

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