Here at PV HQ I’ve been pondering on things that have caught my eye over the last month about the wacky and exciting world of planning, architecture and design.  These cover a TV programme, a book, a city event and a blog, which hopefully covers all tastes and predilections. Take a look and tweet your thoughts on my favourite things and let me know yours at @planningventure.

TV programme

The Culture Show

I loved an episode of The Culture Show in June that looked at the work of Frei Otto, the German Architect and Structural Engineer that pioneered lightweight tensile and membrane construction techniques (I admit it I hadn’t heard of him either, but I’m putting that down to not being an Architect and my age – I am very young after all!)

Best known for his collaborative design of the 1972 Munich Olympic Stadium, with Gunther Behnisch, he was an inspirational figure for so many of our leading architects. His work, which is structurally amazing, is essentially a collaboration of engineering and mathematical precision with the beauty and flexibility of nature – think of lightweight roof forms and buildings that look like honeycombs. How many architects can say that they have been inspired by soap bubbles, spiders webs and tents.  Plus our own Mayor George Ferguson, when President of RIBA, felt that Frei Otto “Has a genuine claim to be one of the real greats of the 20th century.”

You can see the reflection of his work and style in the Eden Project, Waterloo Station, Cubitt’s extension to Kings Cross Station and the Gherkin to name a few home grown examples. Perhaps this TV programme will open his work up to a new generation of Architects and designers.  It’s certainly encouraged me to take a look at more of his work.


Beauty in Decay II

With photography curated by RomanyWG (aka Jeremy Gibbs) and published by Carpet Bombing Culture, this book beautifully details the gentle, and sometimes brutal, decay of rambling mansions and castles; institutions, asylums and schools; factories and industrial buildings.

This book is about the places and playgrounds of the urban explorers (urbexers), whose mantra is to “take only pictures; leave only footprints”. They are the places that contain beauty in otherwise forgotten and derelict buildings.

One of my passions is the juxtaposition of old and new and the reuse of old buildings in new and modern ways without sacrificing the intrinsic value of their character.  So whilst I love the beauty of decay and the faded grandeur of old buildings, I equally love the excitement of great design breathing new life into these old places that continues to keep them alive and retains the essence of their beauty and romance.

This book, which is the second volume, is a real tour de force and makes you think about the buildings that are being lost to nature or insensitive development along with their history and the history and stories of the people that once inhabited them.

Can you think of buildings that are boarded up, empty or derelict that are crying out for exploring, recording and then saving?

A city event

Make Sunday Special, Bristol

Ok, so this event has been running for some time now, but two of these events stand out for me. One was a big hitting, high profile event and the other a much more low key affair. The high profile waterslide extravaganza, which I have previously blogged (May 2014) and tweeted about, and a more low-key event last weekend. Both of which were great in very different ways but succeeded in creating a positive and vibrant heart to what would otherwise be a relatively quiet and dull part of the city on a Sunday.

Last weekend our time was spent at Corn Street, which was transformed into an area for people with a range of food trucks, chess games, shopping stalls, music and dancing.

The ‘Make Sunday Special’ event, initiated by Bristol’s mayor, shows the power that changing the use of spaces can have on a city. Interactions change, perceptions of a place and its people change and areas can relish in the creation of different personas at different times.

Bristol is slowly catching up with cities in other parts of the world that rate highly as great places to live, I think partly as a result of the award of Green Capital 2015, but also as a natural progression of the life cycle of this city.

Planners, urban designers, architects and landscape architects shouldn’t necessarily need to be encouraged to advocate the beauty and benefits of complex and multi layered places like this, but perhaps our clients do. I understand that money and profit margins tend to be the bottom line, particularly in times of economic difficulties, but surely creating places that offer multiple uses and encourage businesses to work with other organisations creating the cross fertilisation of business ideas and energy to encourage people to spend time together (in a positive way!) generates added value.


Martin Goodall’s Planning Law Blog

I have only recently discovered Martin’s blog and I have to say am eternally grateful. Not only does it provide an incisive and witty response to the eye watering, mind blowing complexities of an ever changing planning system. But, and most importantly, it is easy to understand and follow.  And in this crazy world of planning, that is an art to appreciate in itself.

Finally, it is with no regret at all that I heard this week that the BBC2 series looking at the world of Planning has been cancelled. I’m sure there will be the odd person that will mourn the loss of this programme, but I won’t be one of them.