Cultural markers in the East of England

Category: Architecture

A new Arts Centre emerges in Ipswich


Ipswich Arts Centre in association with Ipswich Historic Churches Trust and Re-Create are to establish a new Ipswich Arts Centre at St Clement Church.


In early November there will be an evening of talks, discussion, music and refreshment to celebrate  the rebirth of St Clement as a new contemporary arts venue forming a bridge between the waterfront development and the town centre.


“The aim is to create a contemporary arts centre which will host national and international acclaimed acts in a diverse range of media including music, visual arts, performance, film and theatre. It will complement and support Ipswich’s existing cultural offer, placing Ipswich firmly on the regional and national cultural map.


The rebirth of St Clement as a contemporary arts centre aims to restore this beautiful 14th Century building, which provides a natural space for creative expression, where people can congregate and share in this experience”.


The opening of a new Arts centre in any community is a red letter day. The impending work at St. Clement is set in a long tradition of utilising redundant church property as theatres, community centres and libraries.


The creation of a new, full mix Arts Centre to add to the cultural context of Ipswich and East Anglia as a whole is very exciting indeed.


The project has already attracted media attention and has been featured on BBC news, The Stage and East Anglian Daily Times.
To discover more information about this new Centre and the role that UCS in Ipswich will play see…



Image of St.Clements: Geoff Pick [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons


Is yours a socially productive place?

Today sees the launch of a new RSA report, generously sponsored and in collaboration with British LandSocially productive places – Learning from what works: lessons from British Land – born out of an earlier RSA conference.

Social productivity is the additional social value that can be created through better relationships between citizens, society, business and public services…

The report is a long letter to developers, communities and planners, essentially pleading the case that ‘…long term property value is driven by the long term economic relevance of an asset’.

sociallyproductiveplacescoverpic-mA socially productive place would build community capacity to benefit from and drive growth, and increase resilience to shocks and give an ability to adapt to new circumstances. This is not a new idea. The evidence in the report tracks community development progressive initiatives from early EU regional funding to the New Deal for Communities.

What is new, perhaps, is the tight focus on new skill acquisition by all partners and a fresh focus on method and delivery for impact. The same refocus is taking place in the community finance sector, where the ‘impact investor’ and how outcomes are mapped and delivered is a priority for funders, project planners and community partnerships. The report exercises this viewpoint well.

pdfIcon4   Download a complete copy of this report here…

(As an example of this new social finance mode of delivery see how Social Enterprise East Midlands worked in collaboration with Big Society Capital to deliver an informative and effective mapping session for politicians, social bankers and financial intermediaries in this new sector. See more here…Ed.).

The RSA Report also shows how private capital is developing both it’s land bank and its ideas with impact in mind. The report references brands such as Asda ‘... adopting a ‘community venturing’ approach, forming partnerships with charities and public services‘.

Discover more about shopping for shared value and community venturing in a recent edition of Matthew Taylor’s blog – read more here.

Planning should be thought of as a front-line service.

The success of a development should be judged by its impact on those who use it and its ability to contribute to a broader set of social and economic outcomes, the report declares. Building high quality public realm is expensive, but, says the report, privatising public space is not the answer.

Accessible public realm is an important feature of social productivity places – places designed to support social and economic connectivity. When built, the people must come.

To achieve the above, then there are a number of often new issues to wrangle with for key players in the development process. Investing in community relationships, by any mature, established corporate entitity requires agility and commitment. The report focuses on three key elements…

  • Successful community investment takes time and effort by developers, including long term consistent representation, engagement by senior executives and dedicated staff.
  • Local political support is essential, site specific planning frameworks are not.
  • The results for developers can be profitable as quality of public realm drives rents, and local consent for density allows greater floorspace yield from a site.

The Cambridge sub-region:

One of our own sub-regional cities features in the report too. Cambridge, which quietly broke out of green-belt constraints in the 1990’s, created new communities and growth areas. These well designed and built communites, although having offered an increase in take up of local services were less successful, the report indicates, in increasing employment in those new communities. They have, however, increased pressure on transport links.

As universities become ever increasing drivers of economic development, then local areas should increasingly consider graduate retention as an important part of their
social and economic development thinking, the report highlights.  Working with both universities and developers to pursue this goal should be a strategic priority for the future. Certainly a key development driver for Cambridge, being the world class research nexus that it is.

Finally, the report gives readers examples of non-linear, non -traditional development models which utilise public spaces for community benefit in innovative ways.

One such featured is Incredible Edible – whose growth has been achieved by by-passing bureaucratic processes, ‘…which rely on a narrow account of how value is created and maintained’.

interneticon  Discover the Incredible Edible Network here – just one of the great things to come out of Yorkshire…

In summary, this is an important paper, which whilst containing no ravishing new insights or philosophy, should score very, very highly with the community development sector in the way that it brings together, in a new meld, a variety of distinct skill sets to map a new way forward  for developers, planners, politicians and community groups.

You can still find the content of the original conference, and the papers presented by a list of distinguished speakers here, on The RSA web site.


Iconic metaphor for enterprise?

As part of an occasional conversationsEAST series on major architectural developments across the globe, we take a look, in this article,  at the The Jockey Club Innovation Tower (JCIT) in Hong Kong.

The JCIT is home to the Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) School of Design, and the Jockey Club Design Institute for Social Innovation.

vimeoVideoButtonpic-m  Discover the original video on Vimeo here…

The Tower, designed by Zaha Hadid Architects of London, appears from one angle to be reminiscent of the prow of a great ship, cutting through the Honk Kong island landscape.

A formidable block, which at first appears to teeter or lean from its base, yet which is  an elegant building, seeming to move forward, conveying a sense of motion.

The tower contains 15,000 square meters of space, and can accommodate some 1,800 students and staff. It crests at a height of 78 metres.

We think the tower is a great metaphor for an enterprising community. Hong Kong, enjoying unique relationships with Britain and China because of its history, none the less has in the Jockey Club Charitable Institute and the islands’s seats of learning, a powerful admixture to reap social and economic change in the region.

Indeed, the building’s occupants define its mission as being ‘…initiated by PolyU and the Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust, Jockey Club Design Institute for Social Innovation (J.C.DISI) convenes university expertise, curates trans-disciplinary projects, and constructs partnerships for social well-being and positive systemic change’. 

tower drawings - Hadid ArchectsExploring the Hadid Architects web pages, the drawings of the tower, confined by the landscape the building is set in for sure, none the less look like drawings for rotational cam devices – using an engineering metaphor to illustrate the movement of  all the enterprise contained within.

Supporting the circular energy idea, despite the many contradictions of Hong Kong, are PolyU  projects like SOCIA. Striving to co-ordinate and facilitate research and social change with the English speaking world,  SOCIA looks to ‘…articulate partnership, with government, business, community and academia, for design-embedded social innovation projects – to incubate a new generation of graduates and young designers as novel thinkers, activists and change-makers from Hong Kong‘.

interneticon  See SOCIA and its projects on their web pages here…

A building is simply a shelter. In the case of Hadid’s tower it is also a shelter for ideas, community engagement, innovation and education. If the concrete construct is a metaphor for innovation, it’s enduring legacy could be substantial and durable change in the communities that lie within its hinterland?



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