Here's a round-up of the Colwyn exhibition for anybody curious as to how it went...
Our project was located in Colwyn Bay, North Wales, renowned as a grand little seaside town in the earlier part of last century. Since then it has suffered a dramatic decline. Although the town still has a great deal of character, with ornate facades and a pier stretching into the bay, cheap flights abroad have diminished its appeal as a holiday destination, and a variety of social problems have blighted its reputation. The town also gained a geographic disadvantage when it was dissected by a sunken major road. This dissected the town - promenade and coast separated from town centre - and encouraged motorists to bypass the town altogether.
The first part of our project required a literal bridge which would reconnect promenade and town. This was to fit into a general masterplan for the area. Later we developed a series of buildings for the promenade which would integrate with this masterplan.
The exhibition consisted of forty students' work - about half of the year. They pinned up digital images and hand drawings around the perimeter of the dilapidated ballroom, and supplemented these with sketchbooks, design documents and many models in the centre of the space. To exhibit in second year is highly unusual at our school. Normally the work would only be shown in the studio for marking, then hidden for ever. This was a unique opportunity to give something back which wouldn't have happened without the collaboration of a large number of individuals.
Each day we had between twenty and thirty visitors. These were a mixture of interested locals, town councillors, the 'regeneration' team, and even the Assembly Member for the district. On the whole, the exhibition was greeted with enthusiasm. Many visitors were astounded at the quantity of work, range of approaches, and general vision for the area.
In fact, such was the response that this can now fairly be considered a live project. By taking the schemes back to Colwyn, we've planted a seed which will cause people to ask questions. When certain visitors mumbled that "the public's expectations will need to be managed," it became clear that we were about to make a significant impact.
A montage of the comments from the guest book is available here
, and some more of my images are online here
We had coverage from the local newspaper, regional television, and may have a few articles in the architectural press over the coming week. I don't currently have a copy of the first newspaper article to hand, but shall endeavour to scan it in when I do.
The most common criticism of the exhibition was that we had no idea of cost, and that the schemes were unlikely to ever happen in Colwyn Bay. Well, that's not entirely the case. There is European funding available (see article on BBC website
), for which Colwyn Bay would be eligible if it had a coherent masterplan. Without a roadmap of where money is to be spent and when, and how these ventures would work together to improve the area, of course there isn't presently enough money. With such a document, formed on the basis of public consultation and comprehensive research, there is potential for change. This could be the outcome if the same project was run again next year.
This project wasn't easy, so some thankyous are in order. We had a lot of work to transport, a lot to bring back, and a gallery with wind, rain and resident pigeons! Thanks to all who assisted with pinning up, taking down, and invigilating in the middle. We also had a few tutors who made the hour and a half journey to see the show - quite commendable!