Thursday, 5 August 2010
Design Competition- Day One Monday 02-08-2010
Once at the National Botanical Gardens of Wales, we were provided with a briefing on the Garden and on the assignment by the Director of the Garden, Rosetta Plummer. The overall context for the project is provided by its mission of “Conservation, Education and Inspiration.” The common framework for the design exercises is:
• There must be a roof because of Wales’ wet climate;
• Plants must be involved;
• Maintenance must be low;
• The finished product must be interpretable by visitors;
• The historical landscape and archaeological context must be respected;
• There must be fun; and
• There must be inspiration.
She then introduced the three sites for the design project:
1. The gateway between the Botanical Garden and Waun Las Nature preserve, where the objective is to encourage those visiting the Garden to venture further into the Nature Preserve, while recognizing that this experience will be different – more organic, more passive and more wild
2. The performance stage, an area in the central part of the Garden where musical performances are held. Here the objective is to provide a more appropriate and sheltered venue for performers and their audiences
3. The children’s play area, currently containing a mix of facilities for children, where there is the opportunity to introduce elements of delight that are relevant to the Garden’s main themes and features such as the “rill” that curves down the main central walkway
Matthew Hardy introduced the “Enquiry by Design” methodology to be followed in the charette, as follows:
• Participants had been divided into 9 teams of three members each, with three teams to undertake preliminary designs for each of the three sites;
• The results would be presented to the various interested parties on Wednesday afternoon, at which time the three schemes to be developed further would be decided by vote;
• Three teams of nine would refine the three schemes selected and present their proposals to a meeting of the interested parties on Friday, at which time the scheme to be built would be selected by vote; and
• The necessary technical work would be done to permit the selected scheme to be constructed by the Building Craft Apprentices between September 27 and October 22, 2010.
We then had a presentation from David Jenkins of Coed Cymru, a body devoted to restoring and maintaining the woodlands of Wales. Most of the woodlands of Wales were replanted with Sitka spruce and other conifers imported from the Pacific Northwest because of their ability to grow quickly to provide timber for mine shafts. Timber is the biggest industry in Wales, involving more than 1.000 firms. Now an effort is being made to find economic use for the large areas of standing timber while converting the forests back to native hardwood trees. Two blinding revelations:
1. Sitka spruce could be considered a locally available material resulting from a reverse introduction of species from North America to Britain rather than vice versa; and
2. From a sustainability perspective, the challenge is exactly parallel to British Columbia’s dilemma with pine beetle-killed wood, in that a beneficial use must be found as an alternative to burning it or letting it rot, both of which would produce massive greenhouse gas emissions (the emissions from rotting pine beetle wood in British Columbia are estimated to be equivalent to those from the entire Canadian transportation sector for a year).
The participants then went off to their respective sites to measure, draw and photograph the main features, pausing for lunch on the site of the magnificent Middleton House, whose site and gardens had formed the basis for the Botanic Garden. One of the groups working on the children’s play area even got some direct input from a visitor.