If you’ve been following this blog lately, you’ll notice that most of the posts are about the “Build Your Own High Street” workshops we’ve been having. This one is no exception – on Tuesday 19th May, we had the third of these workshops at Homebaked, and it’s a project that we are all feeling very excited about.
The workshop was at 7pm, like the rest, and began with Britt introducing herself. She reminded us of her involvement with Homebaked, and mentioned that this would sadly be the last workshop with Marianne Heaslip (who has been advising us on architecture at the rest).
Britt also remarked on how there were a fair number of newcomers to the night’s event, which is always encouraging to see, as well as two significant new faces – Liam Cooper and Toby Wallace, our chosen architects from Architectural Emporium.
Next, Marianne introduced herself as an architect who has worked with Homebaked from the beginning, as well as other with other community projects such as Granby 4 Streets.
She reminded us about the CLT (community land trust) and how it has helped saved Homebaked as a building, and our plans to expand our work onto the surrounding block, and (hopefully), the rec behind.
This is a process that we are in control of, and though it will be a long one with hard decisions and compromises to consider, it will be worth it.
We’re currently at “Stage Zero”, in architectural terms, in that we are in its earliest stage.
Our plans are that, in approximately 15 months time, we will have a ‘scheme of significant merit’ to present to the City Council, and we’ll have figured out what that concept means to us.
Marianne then asked if we could all introduce ourselves and name one thing about the brief which we think is important or exciting.
As I have been to every one of these workshops so far, and work as one of Homebaked’s cafe assistants, I recognised most of the people who attended. It’s really nice to see so many of us clubbing together over such a worthy project, and it was interesting to see what others considered was the key to our brief.
Here are some of our thoughts:
-Designed by the people, for the people.
-Our high street will be the “heartbeat of this area”.
-“We’ve only got each other,” in terms of solidarity and community spirit, “and it should be a space for everybody.”
-Benefits local businessses.
-“It should be a hub to meet new people and learn new things.”
-Security and personal space.
-“It should be a new sense of Anfield. We have to start making changes and influencing others.”
Last to introduce themselves were our speakers from Architectural Emporium – Liam Cooper and Toby Wallace.
Architectural Emporium is a Liverpool based company, and it is still a relatively new one, having been around for five years. They have had successful projects throughout Liverpool area, and like to seek out projects with a social context. They are here to learn as well, just like us, and are eager to start. They said they were honoured and excited to have been chosen out of the shortlisted architects.
I think enthusiasm is a very important part of such an aspirational project. By nature, people will feed off each others’ enthusiasm and ideas, and I can certainly see that happening here.
Liam Cooper reminded us of a familiar analogy in Homebaked – “the pies support the bread” – and wondered how we could make that work for the rest of our scheme. Basically, our aspirations vs reality – how will it all work, and what can we do to ensure that it is successful?
Toby Wallace also added that Anfield has suffered a lot in recent years, as we are, unfortunately, all too aware. He wants for us to help rebuild and help build up a sense of pride again for the area/community, and move forwards. This community is full of people who care, and who are interested.
Marianne added that this is not a small project by any means. The idea is that we will have potentially 5-10 business units, and maybe 10-20 residential. It’s a massive task, but I truly do feel if we all put our minds together, we can achieve.
To help us understand the task’s gravity, Marianne had us break up into small groups and list who we feel needs to be involved in our project on post-it notes.
This exercise was to show how complex the project really is, and how important it is to think of every important factor or person/organisation who we would need to involve to see our hopes come to fruition.
As we thought about this, our architects and Marianne moved around each table and helped inspire the group with key words to think about. Community groups, organisations, architectural professionals and so on.
We are all obviously very new to this, and not experienced by any stretch in the field of architecture, but it’s inspiring what a little bit of guidance and help from those who are in the know can do, as we all came up with a huge amount of suggestions.
Our post-it notes were pinned up on a diagram underneath their appropriate categories – Client Group, Design Team and Contractors/Builders.
For the Client Group, we mentioned local businesses and organisations who we would feel would help us, and potentially benefit themselves, from their involvement.
This is a list of just some of them.
-St. Domingo Residents Association
-ANA (Anfield Neighbours Association)
-Churches (such as Trinity, Christ Church, Crete)
-Schools (All Saints, Four Oaks, Anfield Primary School)
-Charities (Justice for the 96)
-Fellow CLTs to get experience/stories from, such as Granby 4 Streets and consulting the National CLT Network.
-Everton Residents Association (and looking at the wider community)
-Speaking to local people.
-Potentially speaking to the Mayor.
Next up, the category of Design Team.
Here our “insider knowledge” from Marianne, Toby and Liam really came proved useful, as there were many here that I personally would not have even thought about, though they seem obvious on a second glance.
-Financial advice and fundraisers.
-Ecology advice and gardening/greenery consultant.
-M & E Engineering.
I feel it’s also important to note how Sid, one of our youngest contributors of the evening, also included a couple of drawings he had made of what he feels the houses might look like.
I think this just goes to show that this is a project that can benefit and involve anyone from the community, no matter what their age or experience.
Finally, looking at Contractors/Builders.
There was a lot of talk here about the importance of approaching local firms for the actual physical building work, as residents would like to see local businesses getting some benefit from us as well. There was also the suggestion of approaching Liverpool colleges and apprenticeship programs too.
After the exercise was finished, Marianne remarked on how it had illustrated how many people and organisations have to be involved. “We have to get the right advice at the right time.” With a good team, such as our appointed architects, and the consultant team and design team we will still need to appoint, we will strive to be successful.
After all of that heavy discussion, it was time for a pie break, as it wouldn’t be Homebaked without the delicious pies. While we had them, Marianne asked us to discuss who should do what, and to consider who is responsible for the brief and developing it.
A local resident suggested that consultation within our group (and inviting others in from the broader community) would be helpful. Perhaps we could have monthly meetings and invite local council members – a steering group, to liaise with the architects on a more intimate basis.
Communication really is vital. Decisions must be made promptly, but while also maintaining that information is shared with everybody involved.
Toby said we would have to “zoom in and out” – look internally at our goals, but involve a wider group. This way, we will have a melting pot of many ideas, but we’ll be able to make decisions quickly within a smaller team. He also specified that Architectural Emporium would like to take a hands-on approach, and we can achieve what we want if we are creative and take into account all the smaller issues. We would also need to appoint a quantity surveyor who will be looking at costs, as obviously, the financing of such a big project is also very important to think about.
Marianne explained to us then the concept of “Value Engineering”. After the project is priced, if it is over budget, we can look at ways to lower the cost by thinking about it holistically – changing materials and methods can actually benefit a project rather than hinder it, as one might think initially. The main goals of our scheme can’t be lost, so we have to consider “where does the value lie?”
We have to look at it as both a cultural and economic project, and determine our priorities. This all goes back to the idea of what exactly our scheme of merit should actually mean?
These are vital factors that should be happening now. While it is good to be creative and think with that mindset, we also have to get our priorities straight before we can move onto the less tangible parts of this project. Everybody has to be involved – we should speak up if we don’t understand something, to avoid falling behind, and never be afraid to ask questions. The architects assured us that the ideas would not just be spoken about, they would be given physical forms in the way of sketches, models or 3D rendered images, to help give an idea of how they might look when finalised.
Knowing that our architects will be at hand throughout this process is both comforting and encouraging.
As the evening drew to a close, Britt explained the next steps.
– We will have a meeting in the near future about how we will progress from here – how will we communicate, and who will be involved directly?
– Also, we’ll look at the brief and appointing a design team.
– For this, we would like for our contributors (even if you haven’t been able to come to any of the events thus far – if you are interested in this project, you can be involved!) to speak up about their own skills and what they might be able to offer towards our goal.
– Britt will also help give structure and guidance as to how local people can help.
Pat, who is a familiar face in Homebaked and has been working with us from very early on, said it’s important to “follow your nose” and go after what excites you.
Follow interests, but also allow them to change.
From a personal point of view, I can definitely agree with this. I came to Homebaked as a cafe assistant working weekdays, 9-1. I had no idea that a few months down the line I would be a) writing the blog and b) being involved in such an exciting project such as designing a high street and directly contributing to my home community.
So, really, if you have even just the smallest spark of interest, now is the time to speak up and get involved!
We’ll update the blog as this project develops and let you all know about any future events. Thank you for following this far – onward and upward (as I have probably said before!)
(Photography by [http://www.asenseofplace.com’ target=’_blank’>link] Ronnie Hughes)