The Imagine Bath ideas competition was launched by BANES and the RIBA at the beginning of 2015 with a simple brief – to imagine how the city might be in the future, if projects were executed with the same pioneering energy which transformed the city in the 18th Century. There were no limitations on the scale or ambition of the proposal, be it a structure, event, festival or installation.
We are never ones to miss out on a bit of spontaneous creativity, or throwing our ideas into the ring, particularly when it comes to our home-town! From the sublime and poetic to the radical or tongue in cheek – here are 5 entries from members of the FCBS Bath Office past and present.
We Build Bath (commended)
The vast demand for new housing for our increasing population (current planning suggests 13,000 required in Bath and North East Somerset by 2029) has seen many UK cities trial ‘self-build’ as an alternative model for securing affordable accommodation, with the system already successfully prevalent in mainland Europe. Whilst this approach has many attractive benefits, the resultant dischord of individual house identities would likely be very much at odds with the cohesive proportion and order that makes Bath internationally famous.
We Build Bath shows how the implementation of a consented coherent shared façade could provide the skin for a self-build revolution, behind which families and community groups are able to take design and construction into their own hands. The city retains its distinctive character, the expanding population can be housed in the homes and neighbourhoods in the way that they want to live, and Bath is once again placed at the forefront of contemporary urban planning innovation.
Car Park Theatre
The Avon Street car park is ear-marked for imminent demolition, and due to its low architectural merit and lack of historical significance, there are few who will lament the loss. However these very factors make it an attractive location for a festival of creative architecture and urban celebration – a guilt free playground in which to experiment with the way we use our city.
From art, sculpture, theatre and music, the dwindling lifespan of this structure presents a real opportunity for all sectors of the community to engage in discussion about the positive future of the city and the river corridor.
Great Pulteney Sculpture Park (commended)
Great Pulteney Street is one of Bath’s outstanding architectural landmarks, yet the current user experience of the space is poor. Although the street links the city’s 2 major art galleries (The Holborne and The Victoria), it is dominated by traffic, and the scale and proportion of the environment is difficult to appreciate.
This scheme proposes to make the street into a pedestrian friendly outdoor sculpture park with a changing retinue of art and installations by local and international artists. The shared space would meet the street’s parking need, and complement this with better seating, lighting, vegetation and al fresco dining.
Grand Parade Lido (commended)
The hot water bubbling below the surface of Bath has been the city’s raison d’etre for thousands of years. Today the spa waters are a major tourist attraction at the Roman Baths, after which they are exhausted by an underground pipe to the river just south of Pulteney Weir, flushing out at approximately 37 degrees. The Grand Parade Lido proposes a unique bathing experience where everyone can appreciate and enjoy the true natural spring water in an iconic location on the river. The project is intended to be temporary installation to highlight how much hot water is being wasted and encourage future development in Bath to harnesses this unique underused resource.
Bath River Bypass
There is no denying the city has a poor relationship with the river which runs through it. Besides the picture postcards of the Pulteney Weir one might be excused for overlooking the waterway entirely. Why not capitalise on this orientational apathy and make the river work in service to the rest of the city? The Bath River Bypass proposes a floating dual carriageway through the heart of the city centre, freeing up traffic from the roads for the enjoyment of pedestrians, cyclists, locals and tourists: Returning the city to its 18th Century cultural function of promenading and being seen by polite society.
Although it is unlikely that any of these ideas will ever be implemented, the competition and resultant exhibition were a great success, and actively demonstrated the level of will, ambition and creativity of the city’s residents – not to mention a whole lot of love!