Simon Warren and Craig Stott, both Leeds Beckett University Architecture lecturers, have led the NWCC project every step of the way since plans began in 2009, before taking it on as their first major commission after founding the University’s Project Office back in 2013. Guided by Project Office, Leeds Beckett University's School of Art, Architecture and Design (AAD) students were also instrumental. The community-run centre opened its doors last Autumn on Leeds’s Tong Road.
Simon & Craig with fellow award winners at Portland State University
Earlier this year it was announced that Project Office had been named as one of two winners in the ‘Live Projects Network’ category of the 2017 Social Economic Environmental Design (SEED) Awards; and Simon and Craig travelled to Portland State University in Oregon, USA, to give a presentation about the project and to collect their award.
Speaking about the award and event, Simon commented: “It was really eye-opening to meet people who share the same inclusive and social design values as Project Office in one place, all achieving excellence with diverse architecture projects and unique methodologies. The quality of the projects from around the world was phenomenal and for our New Wortley Community Centre project to achieve its award shows that we are doing something of impact at Leeds Beckett.”
Craig added: “The Structures For Inclusion conference, at which the award was given, was an excellent three-day discussion and celebration of amazing work from around the world. More than 200 delegates attended, allowing Project Office to make contact with a huge variety of protagonists and sector leaders. Consequently, we now have a number of national and international contacts with whom we are discussing future collaborations and competition entries with, which is really exciting. Attending the conference has enabled us to view and reflect upon Project Office’s work against a larger plan, allowing us to be more confident and expansive with our outreach for future schemes.”
Simon & Craig presenting Project Office's New Wortley Community Centre project at the conference
Project Office was one of only six winners judged and handpicked from a pool of global entries. Street Society 2016 - an annual one-week design event that has been running since 2010 to connect community clients with Queen’s University Belfast students from the School of the Built and Natural Environment - was the fellow Live Projects Network winner. The other winning projects were based in Nepal, South Africa, Ghana and Bolivia.
Project Office, which is run by Simon and Craig, was formed as an architectural consultancy and sits under the umbrella of Leeds Beckett University's School of AAD, giving students at the University a chance to work with real clients, producing built and strategic design solutions with a particular emphasis on ethical, social and resilient architecture.
A total of 196 people participated in the project. From New Wortley locals to multi-disciplinary undergraduates, postgraduates and staff from Leeds Beckett, plus professional consultants and contractors - all working together to bring the building to life, while being coordinated and led by Project Office.
The New Wortley community were highly engaged in design activities and brought local knowledge, practical assistance and support, entrepreneurial spirit and coordination to the project, while the contractors embraced the social endeavour of the project involving local people and students in collaborative design workshops, site visits and coordination of elements designed and built by the students into the fabric.
The Centre officially launched earlier this month and saw the community celebrate everyone who helped turn the dream of building the centre into a reality.
Funded by The Big Lottery, the new building has been seven years in the making and is already incredibly well used – open more than 70 hours a week and hosting a range of activities including adult education, health services, Eastern European School, The Dry Sports Café and a range of creative inclusive activities. In the February Census more than 900 people came through the doors over a one-week period.