2012 freedom of information request discovered that there were 110 unused commercial properties in the BS1 post code area alone. The most prominent of these is the Parcel Force building directly adjacent to Bristol Temple Meads Station, which was recently purchased by Bristol city council in conjunction with plans to regenerate the area. Close to the site, works are already underway on the Bristol Arena, making the demolition of the building look more and more inevitable. However, the time between its eventual demolition and now, it could be used to give something back to the community, create revenue to offset its cost, or as a tool to for behavioural change by encouraging people to consider the use of resources. This offers a critique of standard approaches for tabula rasa development.
A “Plug-In catalogue” was formulated with many different ideas that could inhabit parts or all of the building, using Archigram’s instant city or ideas circus as a key precedent. These “plug-in programmes” were suggested to run for short time periods in order to keep the building fresh and exciting, including fun, activity based installations, music events, food festivals, markets and sustainable urban plant growing and water recycling projects.
Ideas were also suggested of small work spaces that could be rented on a weekly basis at affordable rates- ideal for small scale businesses that where a centre of town position would really assist them in getting their business off the ground. Providing a more economically sustainable output than just a short term events venue was something the team were inspired by when engaging with other ‘meanwhile users’ from Bristol and beyond.
A phasing strategy of how to progressively bring the building back into use and gain awareness of the project was devised, suggesting small scale markets or car boot sales as a first step, combined with a cycle-in pedal powered outdoor cinema, capitalising on the sites location next to a newly established cycle path network.
Public engagement with the project would have been desirable in order to try and gauge specific interest in the study of Parcel Force, but due to aspects of client confidentiality it was not possible to publicise the project during the time that the students were undertaking it. Instead, the students accepted this constraint and looked to the vast building itself as a community, its voices became a rich old and new narrative, which the students entered into dialogue with.
Client: Team Love/Nudge Group
Students: Joe Trevail, Marcus Still, Alexander Chacko and Subarna Gurung
Research Question: To challenge the demolition of derelict buildings through the creative interventions and events to catalyse the natural and uncontrived alternatives.
Links: Hands-on Bristol