London Eye architects work with young people to develop haven for teenagers
Fresh from celebrating the 10th anniversary of their creation the iconic London Eye, Marks Barfield Architects(MBA) have turned their attention a totally different space. Longbridge in Birmingham, once the site of the largest manufacturing plant in the world, could be transformed into a new place for young people through the MyPlace initiative, a multi-million pound government programme. The aim of MyPlace is to design, in partnership with the young people who will use them, world class facilities to help them make the most of their free time and to deliver them throughout the UK.
Supported by The Sorrell Foundation, MBA worked on the MyPlace bid alongside Pete Dewar and Jonathan Hubbard of international branding consultancy Interbrand. Together, they engaged with a dynamic group of nine local young people aged 13-17 in the Birmingham area who were given the role of the client on the project. In the course of a series of workshops, inspirational visits and meetings, the ‘client’ identified and agreed the priorities for the architecture and branding of their centre before presenting the final concepts to their bid teams and stakeholders.
Project Architect and designer Steven Chilton said: “Working on MyPlace with the young people of Longbridge was a truly inspirational experience. At Longbridge we have created a vision that celebrates their creative spirit whilst recognizing and building upon the iconic achievements of the area’s remarkable manufacturing heritage.”
The history of Longbridge is dominated by its industrial past. It is most notable for the production of cars, perhaps the most celebrated being the iconic Austin Mini. The many design references to the heritage of the site include the window pattern on the main facades which was inspired by an aerial photo of hundreds of newly manufactured Mini cars.
The materials proposed - including concrete floors, colour coded for each level, plywood clad internal walls, exposed services - are hard wearing, utilitarian and have an industrial aesthetic. They are also well suited to the facility’s planned uses –performance/sports space, dance, multimedia, café and welfare facilities, recording and TV production studios.
The engineers Adams Kara Taylor have developed an innovative structural solution for the perforated main façade: Acrylic blocks are cast directly into the fibre reinforced concrete wall. The MyPlace bid team at Birmingham City Council is understood to be going through the tendering process currently.