On Saturday 17th September, we held our first monthly Saturday workshop with the PLACED Academy 2022 cohort, one of eight design workshops that will take place during the programme. The session was funded by Wirral Council, one of our Gold Sponsors, who wanted to ask for the groups’ feedback into plans for Dock Branch Park, Birkenhead.
We invited participants to reflect upon the idea of ‘place identity’ and ‘high-density urban living’ in light of the ongoing Birkenhead 2040 Regeneration Framework. Responding to the Dock Branch masterplan site, our young people produced mind maps, collages and ideas for co-housing for multiple demographic groups through mixed-media models, taking inspiration from exemplar international housing schemes, the site itself after attending a site visit, and an overview of the regeneration project by Cathy Palmer from Wirral Council.
Each of our six groups of participants considered the living requirements of families, professionals, young adults or older people, as well as pets. Their ideas included communal housing complexes for couples to live in alongside older people, a contemporary imagining of traditional red brick terraces incorporating sustainability measures such as ground source heat pumps and solar panels, and a housing block split vertically in line with the accessibility requirements of each demographic group.
One group took inspiration from New York brownstones (complimenting the local sandstone of Birkenhead’s Hamilton Square townhouses), and another proposing a sculptural apartment block that would act as a new landmark for Birkenhead, like the brick-clad ventilation towers for the Queensway Tunnel participants observed on-site. Others proposed reusing existing transit infrastructure by reinstating the historic railway lines and arches that run through Dock Branch. Many groups suggested communal spaces, including indoor and outdoor planted areas, parks, play areas for children, and shared balconies, providing opportunities for chance social interactions between residents.
We were thrilled with the work the group produced in just a few short hours, and very grateful to Wirral Council, and in particular Cathy Palmer, for making the session possible.