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project design management

architecture planning conservation urban design

Introduction Projects that change the built environment or the landscape have become increasingly complex to get off the ground, especially where locations are sensitive. For promoters knowing where to start, who to engage, and when to do what is a challenge, with a complicated planning system, many other legislative procedures, construction logistics/ procurement, cost and risk management all needing to be considered. Sometimes project design briefs can be clearly expressed at the outset. But for some clients, end goal concepts need to be developed for a multi-headed client body or a stakeholder forum before the scope of a tangible project can become a recognisable client brief with project options developed and visualised. Project Management has emerged as a distinct professional service that co-ordinates, programmes and monitors the stages that a defined development project needs to be taken through. But it cannot supply the increasingly necessary skills so many projects need in integrating wide ranging, multi disciplinary design inputs through the eye of an experienced design coordinator at concept, options and delivery stages.

Nash Partnership has developed considerable experience in formulating design management and delivery strategies for a wide range of projects involving the built and the natural environment, a skillset we call Project Design Management. Acting usually for primary landowners, we have helped many clients draw out their project objectives, often within a multi-headed or stakeholder framework. We have given visual form to their project options to make them better understood, refined concepts through feasibility and viability studies, and managed the challenges and risks ahead. Design management as a discipline recognises the twists and turns projects need to make to be handled positively by the statutory planning process. It scopes and integrates the wide range of specialist consultation inputs a process will need. It understands the importance of active, well managed public and stakeholder contributions and how, to be successful, and to secure public funding, projects need to align themselves with international, regional, Government or funder policy goals. Although our professional team now embraces Planners, Landscape Designers, Sustainability expertise, Human Geographers, Construction Logistics, Visualisers, Editors and Researchers, we have framed our Design Management skillsets around the comprehensive training models architects use to deliver buildings, using subject research, brief formulation, concept testing, engagement with statutory process, construction procurement delivery and integration of specialist inputs. Architects have one of the few skillsets able to embrace projects from concept to the last detail. Since the formation of the practice in 1988 these skillsets have been applied to wide ranging commissions beyond the normal remit of architects as building designers. A few recent examples illustrate Project Design Management in practice:

northdevon regeneration The 2008 recession and the rising environmental cost of air travel have created a notable reinvestment in UK tourism, founded on a strong recognition of the local distinctiveness of the English regions. The last 20 years have seen a very significant investment in the County of Cornwall after years of industrial time decline. And now it is Devon’s turn.

Left: Narracott Hotel Below: Lee Bay

Nash have been commissioned to show how two new North coast Hotel ventures can be successfully integrated into their small historic settlements and act as major catalysts for regeneration and growth of the rural economy. In small rural settlements such projects have a major influence: creating jobs, creating markets for local agriculture and developing pride, social and cultural identity as well as a great offer of holidays without the need of aeroplanes. But attractive holiday venues invariably involve sites of great sensitivity, through contexts of historic architecture, rich protected landscapes or sensitive wildlife habitats. Such sites often involve frequent technical challenges too, of coastal or fluvial flood risk, wide ranging wildlife, construction logistics and a need to programme projects to cope with roads often congested by holiday traffic. In such projects Nash have often been appointed for our ability to draw out the degree of authenticity schemes require to reinforce the virtues of the experience visitors receive, celebrating what is special and distinctive in each corner of the British Isles.

blistshill At this 50 acre Industrial Heritage Museum in the Ironbridge Gorge World Heritage Site our brief was to masterplan a £13m publicly funded expansion of the largest of 10 industrial museums in the Gorge. We helped the Ironbridge Gorge Museums Trust develop their project brief from the start to include a site railway, an underground mine exhibit, a cable operated inclined lift, a 10,000 sq. ft. World Heritage Site Orientation Centre, two public event arenas, expansion of the Museum’s Victorian town, car parking and supporting facilities. All the projects needed to be designed to a well researched level of historical authenticity, but to secure Grant Aid from the European Regional Development Fund it had to be brought from first grant offer to commencement on the site in less than seven months. The Blists Hill site was very challenging; set within woodland of Green Belt status, rich in archaeology and wildlife, with unstable ground conditions and buried Second World War Ordnance. Many carefully co-ordinated specialist consultants’ inputs needed to be programmed in to keep the project moving to its challenging programme. Everything we did was programme led, allowing the submission of a full planning application for all elements within 10 weeks of instruction, with our first grant of planning permission 13 weeks later and a series of negotiated contracts, allowing completion of all elements throughout 2009. Images of the Visitors Centre at night

potterspond When the promoters of a retirement village wished to redevelop an established factory site in the heart of the South Gloucestershire town of Wotton under Edge they engaged Nash as Project Design and Planning Managers. Before architectural design work could be put in hand several design parameters of this site needed a wide range of specialist technical inputs involving archaeology, contamination, hydrology and flood risk, ecology, arboriculture, vehicular access, consultation with neighbours, re-use of historic buildings and the relationship with the town’s Conservation Area. We undertook a scoping exercise for each of these inputs and used the findings of this within the design development. On a site completely surrounded by elevated dwellings we then tested our emerging designs rigorously through computer studies and physical models to the point we were able to illustrate the true impact of the changes on the site, with a high level of confidence. This led to the successful grant of planning permission in 2008.

ralphallenyard The limestone splendour of the World Heritage City of Bath would not have existed without the entrepreneurial insight of quarry owner, Ralph Allen. In the 18th Century Allen’s underground mines at Combe Down provided a huge tonnage of stone, both for development within the city and via his inclined railway and the River Avon navigation to construction projects throughout England. But, in the 21st century the instability of the mine workings began seriously blighting Combe Down village and lead to a £155m stabilisation programme managed by Regeneration Agency HCA (formerly English Partnerships). Nash Partnership was appointed in 2007 to create a legacy project for the mines’ story, recognising both their role in the history of the City and the village, over three centuries. The project was technically challenging, involving a five storey structure set deep in the ground to access some of the earliest 18th century mine workings as a visitor attraction, whilst offering the village community a structure of social and cultural significance in the heart of the village. The mines now support many species of bats whose survival requires very careful seasonal planning as part of the construction programme. The project will be part funded by new purpose designed housing to Code 5 of the Code for Sustainable Homes, taking its heat from the air within the mines. The scheme has evolved through extensive public consultation and involves the setting up of a new long-term management trust charged with running a programme of visits and events able to create a viable revenue model for the project once handed over. As the legacy for one of HCA’s largest ever projects, such a large but wholly underground scheme has demanded a high level of tangible delivery above ground.

Main image: Exploring the Mines Right: CAD views of the scheme


Cheltenham College is one of Britain’s premier private schools in the Rugby Group, characterised by its exceptional standards of personal care and individually focused pupil education. When the school’s management wished to embark on a £25m programme of improvement of its facilities they found it difficult to know where to start. Their campus contained a wealth of historic buildings from the 1840s through to the early C20th, but little investment had been made in repair for many decades. So demanding were the day to day problems of management of such an active and successful school that serious help was needed to create a development framework, requiring significant fundraising and project procurement over 15 years.

Above: CAD view of the scheme Left: Various images of the project

We were first engaged in 2005. We showed the College Executive and Council how they could understand the spatial dimensions of their campus, how greater utilisation of the historic buildings could be achieved, how building functions could be relocated to minimise the need for new build construction and where income could be generated by the use of high quality, but relatively peripheral, facilities. This would therefore raise the profile of College within the local and regional community. We went on to test out feasibility studies for a range of designs and relocations and then put the findings into a 15 Year Development Plan that won the endorsement of the Local Planning Authority and English Heritage to become a true long-term Development Masterplan, allowing each project to be developed and individually funded over the years ahead.

westley richards Throughout the world, sporting gun makers Westley Richards are renowned for the quality of craftsmanship and the beauty of line of their guns, all made to order and retailing at prices in excess of £100,000. Working over many years, Nash have managed the relocation of the firm from buildings in the South of Birmingham to a new home in Victorian era buildings in the City’s historic Gun Quarter alongside a new pressings factory and an underground firing range. At every stage, creating an impression of over 100 years of continuity has been important to such an historic name by whom many of the early patents in firearms were first registered. The new factory and showrooms includes a magnificent shop and museum, a wide range of workshops for stock carving, barrel rifling and finishing, action assembly, engraving, assembly, finishing and testing, together with leather work and associated trades. We completed the project in 2009 giving the City’s historic role once as the workplace of the world a welcome boost in pride and identity.

paintworks Generally in urban centres the pattern of land ownership and development is dictated by the investments of pension funds in retail, commercial and leisure property. But in Bristol’s St Phillips Marsh industrial area, social and cultural entrepreneurs, Verve Developments have grown the hugely successful Paintworks Creative Workspace project to very considerable acclaim. After bringing 130,000 sq. ft. of C20th industrial buildings from an average rental value of £1.50 per sq. ft. up to £17 per sq. ft. in five years around the activities of some 70 creative businesses, the new project will be wholly new build. The scheme, involving in all 380,000 sq. ft. of mixed small scale workspace, a hotel, cafes, workshops, studios and apartments occurs on a site vulnerable to a complex pattern of tidal flooding which has required consideration of access and car parking strategies. The scheme will fund the regeneration of two rundown public open spaces and, connecting to the heart of Bristol via an established network cycleway, will show how a new edge of inner city commercial vibrancy can be created, overturning the well known ‘doughnut’ effect so many manufacturing cities have suffered.

kingstonmills Our brief to regenerate the town centre of historic Wiltshire town of Bradford on Avon was enormously challenging. When we were appointed in 2003 the town had seen several schemes for regeneration of the 6¼ acre site come and go without a planning resolution or any measure of support from its highly active groups of residents. Apart from the fact that the towns-folk had very strong views about the uses they wished regeneration to provide, the site presented considerable technical difficulties involving extremely poor vehicular access, proximity to a wealth of important buildings, 90% inundation in a 1 in 100 year flood, proximity to an active railway line and challenging air quality. By analysing the rise and fall of previous schemes we realised that some issues fundamental to investment in the site had never been satisfactorily resolved. By identifying the site’s challenges in order of importance and then widely circulating the conclusions among its stakeholders, we knew critical decisions could be made one by one, to the point a viable pattern of reuse could be presented and justified through the statutory planning process. In this scheme, integrating the specialist inputs from a wide range of consultants; engineers, hydrologists, ecologists, archaeologists, and contamination expertise has been extremely important with each contribution needing to be scoped, interrogated and tested to ensure the scheme ultimately built would reflect the extraordinary sensitivity of character of this site in every design decision made. In this regeneration scheme Nash will be retained to the end; monitoring and influencing the site’s continuing evolution as a high proportion of new workspace, town centre shopping, leisure/community and cultural activity, develop alongside 170 plus new dwellings. As is typical with many Nash schemes, securing a planning permission for a viable scheme is determined by several factors and has needed high level of project leadership amongst the town’s very active and vocal community.

lockingparklands Nash were commissioned in 2007 to prepare a tangible Vision Statement for the complete regeneration and renewal of the 100 hectare RAF Locking Air Base on the outskirts of Weston-super-Mare, a site being put forward for disposal by central Government’s Regeneration Agency, HCA, (formerly English Parnerships), working in conjunction with the South West Regional Development Agency. Development on this site was to be predicated on creating one million sq. ft. of new employment floorspace to reverse the long standing out commuting of Weston’s working population to nearby Bristol. We provided the essential vision the project needed, showing how, through research and careful programming the proper employment growth model could be achieved and how the local geography of the site, its flora, fauna and water management regime could all be used to generate distinctive character. By liaising with multi disciplinary Engineers Arup, and Landscape and Environmental Consultants, Nicholas Pearson Associates, we showed how a strong sense of local distinctiveness and economic vitality could be achieved, bringing new graduate employment to Weston, and new housing models attractive to such employees early in their working lives.

Each of the projects described here has involved, in various degrees, the formulation of a client’s brief or the early recognition of an opportunity, a depth of understanding of site context, the scoping and instruction of specialist expertise, development and testing of options and viability modelling. In addition to all these things, each project has needed a clear and confident eye on how an individual site can be reshaped to deliver a project to meet client and stakeholder aspirations.

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Project Design Management  
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