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Friday01 August 2014

George Ferguson tells architects: Come and transform Bristol

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Jan Gehl and David Mackay are first to accept invitation

George Ferguson wants to attract the world’s best architects and urbanists to join his ambitious plans to transform Bristol.

The newly elected mayor of the city, a former president of the RIBA, issued an open invitation to the profession to come and get involved.

He revealed Jan Gehl from Copenhagen, David Mackay from Barcelona and Chris Brown of developer Igloo were visiting Bristol next week to brainstorm existing projects.

And he announced an architectural competition for a 12,000-seat arena, plus plans to bring forward two football stadia.

“I am hoping it’s a great opportunity for the best in the architecture, planning and urban design professions to come and experiment in Bristol,” Ferguson told a room full of architects at an event organised by Bristol’s Architecture Centre and held at the NLA yesterday.

“Bristol is a laboratory for change. We are a test bed: come and try it. Come and be part of the think tanks I will set up to see if we can do things in a different way.

“I am perfectly prepared to steal from anywhere but what I don’t want is for Bristol to be like anywhere else. It’s very important to strive for that.

“I want to learn off you. I have a hell of a lot to do and I need a hell of a lot of support.”

He said he was taking a 25-year view of the city and would not give a moment’s thought to re-election.

He is already working on plans to improve the experience of arriving at Temple Meads Station which will include moving the exit.

“You will come out to the east, facing one of the biggest urban roundabouts you could devise which is a massive waste of space,” he said, adding that he wanted this to become a civic plaza.

He spoke of wanting to retrofit the city and its highways, using good architecture to turn around the bad.

“It’s not about providing a lot of glitzy iconic buildings but about using the best of what we have got and transforming the worst because there’s some merit in almost everything,” he said.

He wants to build the new arena within his first term, which is only three and a half years.

He admitted the timing was tight and said he had not decided whether it would be an open or invited competition. He will seek advice from the RIBA Competitions office and others.

He also wants to push forward existing plans by the city’s two football clubs to build new stadia.

“So there are some great opportunities but the biggest opportunity is how we make a city rather than how we make a load of pieces of look-at-me architecture,” he said.

  • George Ferguson was talking at the exhibition Bristol: Retrofit City, which is at the NLA until January 25.

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