Summary of activity:
This proposal involves the inhabitants of a typical market town in evaluation and then proposal for future scenarios for the town through the use of design workshops, design charettes, exhibition and public consultation.
In this study different methods of engagement that attempt to remedy are being employed and evaluated to provide data that will be used in a series of inclusive design workshops to envision the Market Town of the Future.
Predicting the future accurately is a difficult proposition. We can only imagine it intelligently based on the data available, and then take steps to achieve the most desirable and avoid the undesirable options.
These methods are often promoted as good practice but not often used effectively. The challenge has been to fully involve inhabitants at all levels in a process which is often exclusive. Young designers rarely get experience of how to listen and effectively communicate with the public and the inhabitants of rural towns feel that they are disenfranchised from designing their future
This visually rich project is designed to stimulate all those with an interest in the market towns of Wales to act to develop, using design as a mechanism, sustainable futures for them.
The project was launched in April 2010 with an event at Ruthin Craft Centre. DRU-w presented initial town studies to a community group drawn from the Town Council, Chamber of Commerce and Civic Society and outlined background to the project.
At the end of April, a group of nine first and second year architecture students from the Welsh School of Architecture visited the town for three days as part of a three week project. Starting with a three day visit to the town accompanied by the Mayor, Gavin Harris, and Denbighshire CC conservation architect Phil Ebrell, students analysed the town from first-hand experience. With the Town Council, students identified sites around the town that needed improvement. Returning to Cardiff, a large scale model of the town was prepared and students began urban design projects for the identified sites.
The projects were reviewed in Ruthin with a panel of residents and subsequently exhibited in the Craft Centre as part of the ‘Ruthin: Market Town of the Future’ exhibition, displayed for three weeks at the end of May 2010. This allowed residents to see the students’ work and to encourage them to think about Ruthin, perhaps in a new light, and to consider what was important to them about the town. Feedback from the exhibition was largely positive; visitors were encouraged to fill out feedback sheets and a visitors’ book collected comments from the public and visitors to the town.
Work in the town is continuing. While the student projects raised awareness of the project in the town and identified key sites for improvement, a phase of mapping the public realm and character of the town will commence in February 2011. This aims to accurately record the town as it is now and identify simple measures that could be taken on a small scale to improve the townscape. Results of this exercise will be presented to the townspeople and exhibited in the Spring.
Links to further information on the project are available at:
Ruthin: Market Town of the Future website: http://ruthinfuture.moonfruit.com/
Design Research Unit Wales: http://www.dru-w.co.uk/
Design Research Unit Wales: Ruthin project page: http://www.dru-w.co.uk/ruthin.html
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/wales/north_east/8649707.stm (including audio from Radio Wales)