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Small Projects Big Green Ambitions

Green is nothing new to Bristol, writes Hattie Hartman

‘Blown away by Richard Nightingale!’ tweeted Piers Taylor of Invisible Studio after last week’s AJ Small Projects event hosted by the Bristol Architecture Centre. Small Projects Big Green Ambitions, masterminded by Architecture Centre programme manager Rob Gregory, was valuable for two reasons.

As the first ever event focused on the AJ Small Projects sustainability award (now in its third year), the evening provided a platform for Kilburn Nightingale, this year’s winner, and the short-listed practices to show their work outside of London and debate the challenges of sustainable design in a convivial setting.

Equally important, it provided a forum for members of the Bristol green scene to network. This is just the type of role the Architecture Centre can and should play in the run-up to Bristol Green Capital 2015. With a friend in architect mayor George Ferguson and a pedestrian-friendly location on Narrow Quay, it is well-poised to do so. 

Green is nothing new to Bristol. Longtime resident Alastair Sawday has pushed this agenda for years, as has Lucy Pedler of the Green Register, whose hands-on green design courses have provided expertise to more than 4,000 construction professionals. Another pioneer, Craig White of White Design, provided the drinks for the Small Projects event.

Interviewed recently in the AJ, Ferguson cited winning the bid for Green Capital 2015 as his biggest achievement to date and sees greening the city as a key part of his legacy. Bristol, which will follow Nantes (2013) and Copenhagen (2014) as European Green Capital, won the bid based on its bottom-up approach, according to Green Capital coordinator Darren Hall. It is a city on a journey, a laboratory for change. Its Community Challenge Fund has supported more than 30 grass roots projects since 2010.

Hall’s aspiration is for the Green Capital to be relevant for the ordinary people of Bristol. ‘Through the healthy city initiative, we hope to create the step change we need. It’s not about just green, it’s about life,’ says Hall. Greening the city with allotments was a key theme which emerged from the Small Projects evening. Piers Taylor commented, ‘To open up the city, I would focus on food. Today  food is something that happens somewhere else. We need more productive spaces and to change the way we consume food to make it more related to the fabric of how we lead our lives.’ This is a way forward suited to a bottoms-up approach – and achievable within the tight timeframe.

If you want to see for yourself what’s brewing in Bristol, check out Bristol Green Doors which takes place on 28 and 29 Sept. Its excellent brochure and website make green design plain speaking. That’s a good place to start.

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