North End – Interdisciplinary Masterplanning Workshop

To ease us back into the new term, the first three days after our Christmas break were spent working in a team with architects to produce a masterplan for the new North End Urban Village in the north of Leeds.

North End is an island cut off from the rest of the city by fast roads and ravine like motorway cuttings. The area is mostly light industrial but hidden between prefabricated warehouses are architectural gems that have potential.

After introductions to our team of three architects and two landscape architects we headed out into North End to get a feel for the place. 

Things that caught our eye were traces of the areas industrial past, particularly the goit. Before the word was hijacked by the television series ‘Red Dwarf’ goit was the Yorkshire term for a small artificial channel that carries water, usually to feed a mill.

We discussed what more information we wanted to gather about the site. I looked at landscape character, and produced a couple of collages and plans to show the existing character of North End.

The next day we reconvened to discuss our early thoughts and begin investigating how we should approach creating a masterplan for this site.

As it turns out using colouring pencils and tracing paper is an excellent way for a team of creatives to effectively communicate thoughts and ideas. We had a morning of ‘brainstorming’ where we all spilt our thoughts onto the page. At the end of the morning we all had agreed an outline concept.

Quick sketches explaining how elements work together and how buildings integrated with the wider landscape proved an efficient method of communication.

To contribute to our presentation I produced a couple of photo montages that explained how we envisioned the goit to be reimagined and opened up for public access. I also looked into creating an ideas palette for how we would re-configure North Lane, a major barrier to movement in our site.

On the morning of our presentation, we came together again and put together our final presentation.

The brief specified two A1 sheets, we decided that one would be for our masterplan and the other would be for our indicative collages. To help communicate our design to the panel of architecture tutors and the audience of fellow students we selected five key words to sell our masterplan on. These were: cooperative, heritage, aquadentity, playnamic and walkable. Aquadentity and playnamic were made up which was a bit of a wildcard but both had serious thought underpinning the decisions. Aquadentity describes ensuring that the goit is a key part of the vision and identity of North End. Playnamic was to describe the improved work life balance we wanted the new urban village to deliver through playful intervention.

Our presentation sheets were supported by a PowerPoint presentation entitled “The Goitway” and decorated in a memorable shade of baby pink. We also delivered a quickly put together verbal presentation focussing on our five key words.

The made up words and clear vision paid off as we came joint first (technically joint second if your glass is half empty) in the competition up against 10 other supposals. The prize was a bottle of prosecco served in plastic champagne flutes from Tesco. Ahh the sweet taste of victory.

Working with architects on this very quick and intense process was a valuable experience. Realistically we only had two days to actually put together a design and presentation after you take out the time taken for the introduction and presentations at the end.

Operating within these tight time constraints has taught us to design instinctively and efficiently we were required to effectively communicate with other disciplines and a panel unfamiliar with our design.

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