The Glasgow Institute of Architects has announced an ideas contest to regenerate the Midsteeple Quarter area of Dumfries town centre in Scotland, UK (Deadline: 15 May)
Open to architects, landscape architects, urban designers and other related disciplines, the anonymous competition seeks ‘innovative yet practical’ proposals to transform a former retail space, known as the Bakers Oven, and its immediate surroundings.
The project, backed by arts organisation The Stove Network, aims to regenerate the Midsteeple Quarter block of Georgian buildings bounded by High Street, Bank Street and Irish Street in the heart of the historic market town.
Midsteeple Quarter, Dumfries
According to the brief: ‘The Midsteeple Quarter competition is first and foremost an ideas competition to envisage an innovative new approach to town-centre living and being. The goal of the Stove Network is to see the high street re-energised and repopulated, contributing inclusively to the local community and economy.
‘The competition is looking for innovative yet practical solutions with regards to the building fabric of the Bakers Oven, a conscious solution to a sustainable energy strategy with a people-centred focus and a vision for the quarter.’
Dumfries grew into a major market town during the medieval era, but in recent years has seen its high street – like many others throughout the UK –struggle to attract investment.
Last year The Stove Network set up a community-led project to regenerate the town centre, reactivate vacant retail spaces and encourage more residential use within the district. The initiative has so far focused on the Midsteeple stretch of Dumfries High Street, where a disused shop front has been temporarily transformed into a community engagement space known as the Bakers Oven.
The latest project seeks ideas to convert the property at 137-139 High Street into a socially sustainable space which could kick start transformation of the wider Midsteeple Quarter. Visions must encompass the entire block, which features many retail properties and several closes.
Submissions should include two conceptual visualisations in PDF or jpg format, and a 1,000-word project description. Videos up to 60 seconds long may also be submitted. The judging panel has yet to be announced.
The overall winner, to be announced at the end of May, will receive £1,000, while a second place prize of £500 and third place prize of £300 will also be awarded. All entries will feature in public exhibitions in Dumfries and Glasgow.
Interested parties may book a free ticket to attend a site tour in Dumfries on 22 April.
How to apply
The deadline for submissions is 15 May
GIA members must pay a £25 registration fee while non-members will be charged £30
Erith Meanwhile case study: Q&A with David Knight
The co-founder of DK-CM discusses lessons learned designing a meanwhile use and public realm strategy for Erith, England
How will your Erith Meanwhile project enhance the area’s culture and character as it undergoes major regeneration in the future?
‘Erith Meanwhile’ is a strategic study that proposes a series of ‘meanwhile use’ projects for sites across Erith, a Thames-side town centre that will see significant growth and housing development in the coming years and decades. This growth is much needed but, as ever, risks eroding existing identities and character: Erith was a notable riverside leisure destination in the 19th century and then became a major industrial location from the mid-19th century to today, and we have sought to resurrect aspects of these histories to create a new narrative about Erith’s identity.
The key to getting proposals right was a series of one-to-one conversations with key local entrepreneurs, cultural providers, institutions and stakeholders. Iinformation from these intense conversations fed directly into proposals such that they become natural extensions of existing initiatives and cultural activity in Erith. Proposed projects join up existing offers, activate disused spaces & connections, target new audiences, set up new collaborations between the council and private landowners, and plug in to London-wide cultural initiatives. The first project proposed in the study has now been commissioned by the council and is being developed by DK-CM and The Decorators.
Erith Meanwhile by DK-CM
Which architectural, material and other methods did you harness in your design?
Our key design method for the study was conversation. Documented discussions with key individuals and institutions provided the key raw material for developing the proposals. Though noble in intent, ‘public consultation’ and participation processes often end up paying lip-service to community desire while failing to gain nuanced understandings of how places actually are – existing initiatives, needs and opportunities. Intense, personal one-to-one conversations, with interviewees recommending other people to meet, are a counter to this approach, and also build relationships between the design team and local ‘doers’ that make impactful, meaningful projects much more likely.
Erith Meanwhile by DK-CM
What advice would you have to contest participants on reimagining Dumfries high street?
A winning image in this context will need to contain the right mix of reading the existing place and choosing what aspects of it to draw out, celebrate or reinstate, and envisioning how it will transform in a way that will provoke and excite people, and which they can imagine existing in. Designs can’t start from scratch, they have a messy and complex existing situation to build from, and a grounding in the character of the place – social, physical, economic – should be visible.
Erith Meanwhile by DK-CM
Q&A with Sam Patterson
The convenor of the GIA’s architecture, people and place committee discusses his ambitions for the contest
Why is GIA and The Stove Network holding an ideas contest to regenerate Middlesteeple Quarter in Dumfries?
The story of Dumfries high street is not a new story – market town without a market, high vacancy rates, absentee landlords, deteriorating building fabric and only one resident above the shops.
The collaboration between the Glasgow Institute of Architects and the Stove Network goes back to the 2016 Festival of Architecture, we toured the EOLAS travelling pavilion around the GIA chapter area and the Stove Network used the pavilion as part of #SquareGo, a public workshop that discussed what would bring more people to Dumfries.
Deciding to work with them again on this competition was easy, they are an impassioned group of people who want to bring about positive change that they didn’t see others making. But it is worth noting that they do have a good relationship with Dumfries and Galloway Council.
This ideas competition is just one stage on the overall journey for The Stove Network, whose efforts have featured in the Prospect North exhibition, which Lateral North presented at the 2016 Venice Architecture Biennale and that secured the 2016 Surf Award for Creative Regeneration. The story of Dumfries has been turning heads, and is garnering interest from national and government agencies, especially in anticipation of the forthcoming planning review and community empowerment bill.
The GIA is pleased to be able to support The Stove Network and learn from its story. Wwhat we are interested in is how the profession reacts to the shift to community client and any newly adopted briefing process. Whether the Dumfries story becomes a prototype for other high streets will be defined by who writes it; the author ought to focus on the people and their passion as a driver for change rather than evidencing what they did.
The Bakers Oven, Dumfries
Source: Image by Ross Campbell
What is your vision for the future of the Middlesteeple Quarter?
What we hope to see from the competition entries are new and challenging ideas for the life of the high street that will inspire the residents of Dumfries to endure what will inevitably be a long process.
With that said, the competition sits alongside a series of community-generated aspirations that have come from the programme delivered by The Stove Network, which is based in a refurbished building on the high street. The Midsteeple Quarter is a vacant urban block, the Stove Network is in discussions about an asset transfer of one of the units known as The Bakers Oven. The hope is that this unit will be developed into an incubator space in partnership with University of the West of Scotland, which is the next step in its ambition to buy back the high street so it is owned by the town.
What sort of architects are you hoping will apply?
The competition is open to architects, landscape architects, urban designers and any other related discipline, as individuals, practices or as part of a team from across the UK. We have restricted the entries to the UK as we hope that entrants will join us in Dumfries on the 22 April 2017 for an open day.
There will be presentations and tours to help entrants understand the context and form their responses accordingly. This competition is not open to students who are in higher education, but we consider Part 2 graduates to be eligible.
The Bakers Oven, Dumfries
Source: Image by Ross Campbell
Which other design opportunities are on the horizon, and how will the architects be procured?
At this Stage the Stove believes it needs to refresh its vision. It sees an essential way to do this being to call on the collective imagination of architects. So this competition is for ideas only/ Entrants will be included in the exhibition planned for Dumfries and Glasgow, and have a chance of winning a cash prize. We hope the top prize of £1,000 is an enticing offer for our limited submission requirements. The ideas presented will contribute to the ongoing debate around the future of our high streets and the IP remains the property of the entrant.
Have you been impressed by any other similar projects involving the regeneration of high streets?
The Stove Network is driven by the artistic potential in regeneration. It has installed itself in a building and is engaged in a participatory programme that has had a positive impact. I would find it difficult to name a specific reference project; its approach is driven though reacting to a specific environment, the context of Dumfries and its people.