Tuesday, September 27, 2011
Project Goal: Working to Identify the sites with the most overlapping needs and resources. Recognizing early on that this project is encompassing several components that are interrelated was very critical in identifying the sites that warranted further in-depth research. Certain resources such as water and defunct land were just as important as job need and intact heritage (historic built environment).
After taking a week to tour the country from South to North the group was able to start to get a sense of place about what Wales was, what it is, and what it can be. This also allowed the group to start to identify what our regeneration area was in comparison to the rest of Wales. We have met with several people involved with the regeneration effort e.g. Dave Adamson, Andrew Dakin , John Buxton, and we have started to narrow in the sites that make the most sense in the terms of needs and resources of the sites. We have begun research at two sites specifically Barry and Aberdare. Barry is a coastal town with a lot of potential as a hub connecting via rail to other locations as well as having an operating dock. Aberdare is located in the Heads of the Valley, it has a rich cultural identity and resources that compliment a regeneration project. I have reviewed the plans of “Rhondda Cynon Taf” local development plan to see where our strategies can be incorporated into what is already a well put together and comprehensive master plan.
Some of the target goals I identified from the local development plan are as follows:
Reduce discrepancies between requirement availability of affordable and special needs housing stock
2 Culture and Heritage
Reduce number of buildings on at risk register (Maintain/protect locally designated sites of cultural value and areas of high archeological value
Improve access to public transport and community facilities for all
Increase access to recreation and sports facilities and the countryside
Broad the Economic base by creating more varied and stronger businesses
Increase opportunities to work within the district
All new development located to support and encourage sustainable travel choices
8 Built Environment
Promote improved design standards and encourage community participation in the planning process
Achieve favorable conditions of nationally and locally important landscape designations
Protect and enhance biodiversity and geodiversity of the area
Promote sustainable water resource management
12 Climate Change
Reduce Greenhouse emissions
Improve energy efficiency and maximize the use of renewable energy (Encourage energy efficient design in development)
14 Land and Soils
Increase proportion of development on previously developed land
Reduce tonnage of waste to landfill
Increase % of secondary and recycled aggregate sources in all developments
17 Air Quality
Maintain and Improve Air quality
The Barry team will be our showcase facility with a public open space connected with the willow processing facility and the green house. We are also looking at precedents in the area for a training/vocational school that can be incorporated into the design. We want this place to be multi-functional, were already thinking ahead of how we can incorporate different aspects of each students focus into a harmonious and cohesive design.
The idea that we are working with is to create jobs from the basic blue-collar level to experienced professionals so that we can have a stronger texture or network of people i.e. not only workers, but also teachers, administrators, culinary students, restaurant management. We've also been playing around with the idea of those secondary facilities like restaurants, historic trains, eco-tourism, breweries etc. There is a lot on the drawing board right now but as for our current research we are looking at the baseline things we need to know. This includes demographics, ecology, hydrology, soils, zoning, national trust, current conservation easements, water resources, transportation networks; for both Barry and Aberdare. The majority of target issues related to the Local Development Plan will be incorporated into our design and many of our design solutions are already sensitive to these targets as well as intrinsically fulfilling them. The group is currently engaged in research about these two sites and will have updates coming soon. A two week long charrette is scheduled for the first week in October and we will be beginning the design phase of these two sites.
Monday, September 19, 2011
Beginning the project with Dave Adamson of C.R.E.W. (Center for Regeneration Excellence Wales), the 8 other talented under-graduates at SUNY-ESF (School of Environmental Science and Forestry) and I are given a briefing on some important aspects about the regeneration work in Wales. There are Welsh Ministers for Health, Housing, Economy, Transport and Education. In southeastern Wales the “Heads of the Valley” (H.O.V.) regeneration area will be the main focus of our project.
As some know many of the town’s in this area of Wales supported much of the United Kingdom’s coal and iron works, it was a hub of mining, processing and export for the nation. Eventually, however this trend would not continue in 1985 more than twenty mines were formally closed in Wales. This has synergistically caused a real threat to the livelihoods of many people living the area. As sensitive as this topic is people are willing to share first-hand accounts of how this issue has now affected up to three generations of families. In the areas many of these towns are located in, there is a contemporary and ancestral connection to place. There is a physical restriction in the sense of topography when you consider these places in the 3rd dimension. An anecdote example”A bank was to be closed in a town in south Wales, the bank began receiving complaints about the closure, and the party responsible for closing the bank replied that there was another branch only 11 miles away. The issue is that the road to get to that next town is really all the way to the bottom or the top of the valley, because no roads go directly to the next town due to extreme topography it would take nearly 40 minutes to get to a branch.” Therefore transportation and connection between communities is relatively difficult due to the time and cost of travel for work or services. Another important connection/observation is the extent of the canal system in Wales while there is only minor shipping use it may have other potential for the willow project.
In this project the aim is to find ways of adaptive reuse for these post-industrial communities facing a wide variety of issues. While there are strong community bonds and a sense of place there is also things to combat such as generational poverty the use of “Incapacity Benefit” (Similar to US welfare system) and this largely coincides with the loss of a generational coal and iron industry. The loss of respectable blue collar jobs combined by with continued decline in opportunities encourages a psychology of negative accumulation. We need to ask how to reengage community members after these years of joblessness which has created an environment that creates low-self-expectations; I too sympathize with not leaving your home and wanting your community to flourish again. There were serious socio-economic consequences to the closure of these industries and it is a testament to the strength of Welsh culture that these communities have endured rich in culture and spirit. We are dealing with not just one issue but layers of them, multiple recessions; it becomes a synergistically perpetuating environment. Benefit dependency, long term generational poverty, housing degradation, environmental degradation, cultural attachment, connection obstacles, labor mobility, health degradation and skill trade deficit.
There are of course challenges to the project but it is also has powerful potential. I will be looking at using Willow as bio-fuel, also using the processing actions ambient heat to help fuel a greenhouse. I will be looking at models for community gardens as well as trade schools to combine energy related fields to culinary and farm related education trades. Providing a community based education outreach as part of the greenhouse work and the willow cultivating, harvesting and processing work we will provide stable work in the energy field once again for these communities. I will also be looking at a transportation adaptive reuse with possibilities of using reclaimed railroad as well as canals to reconnect communities thus limiting need for car transport between communities as well reducing carbon footprint and further environmental degradation. I will be working with member of C.R.E.W. as well as the other students from SUNY-ESF to gather regional information as well as an analysis of “Genius Loci” or “Sense of Place” about the communities we seek to research and enrich.