We’ll take any chance to pop back to one of our favourite projects.
I popped into our first housing development The Staiths South Bank in Gateshead in early October 2015, almost 15 years after we first started to design it. Gerardine and I have often wondered if it is the highlight of our careers. Not just because it was our first major project after selling Red or Dead and signified a brave and reasonably radical career change but because it was a real challenge to change accepted practice in the mass housebuilder world. Read more here for some more thoughts on this.
We are told by many architects that we are fortunate to be able to return to a project of this scale and to see it mature wonderfully rather feel sad that the design vision has been watered down or allowed to be dissipated. From talking to the community at The Staiths it does seem that it is not just us that have fought hard to uphold the principles that so many bought into. The community are taking over the management of the landscape and common areas, saving money, getting rid of frustrations with the typically poor management company and almost certainly ensuring that a more loving job is carried out. The community fought hard to ensure that the planned community shop didn’t end up as apartments. In the end a young couple who live on the development took a career change, campaigned hard, opened a very cool cafe/deli indeed and now employ 9 staff and its a roaring success, attracting cyclists and walkers using the Keelmans Way along The River Tyne.
It’s also wonderful to see that so many of the European ideas that we brought back from our travels around housing estates in Sweden, Denmark, The Netherlands and Germany back in 1999 and 2000 are happily being adopted in Gateshead. People will bring their chairs out the front of their house if the outlook is good and the development has been planned to work with the sun and prevailing wind direction. People will use and look after outdoor table tennis tables and communal barbeques and they will tend to shared pocket parks and raised planters. Give people cycle paths and safe cycle storage and it gets used.
The main source of our pride is the response we get from residents from all walks of life who go out of their way to tell us that they have found somewhere where they can’t imagine leaving.
In 2016 we are going to organise a party for all involved in the design and delivery of all the phases of the development and properly celebrate a wonderful team effort with the resident community.
We are so proud of The Staiths South Bank Gateshead and it is the highlight of our careers. We are now challenging the young HemingwayDesign team to trump the Staiths over the next decade.
Read more about the project here.