ARCHITECTURE MASTERCLASS - I

Speaker: Keith Bradley- Fielden Clegg Design , Bath
26 January 1998

This session was the first of a series of six masterclasses organised by Victor Suchar to give local architects the opportunity to present their work and ideas to BRLSI members and guests.
Mr. Bradley divided the Fielden Clegg design projects into two catagories: the meat or monuments and the potatoes representing the majority of commissions. These projects to the extent possible should achieve environmental harmony i.e. within a context including climate, setting and the historical and social situation. Increasingly Fielden Clegg attempted to use environmentally sustainable materials and to strengthen the relationship of materials to the environment.
The four projects Mr. Bradley highlighted were: Kingswood School, Bridgecare, The Earth Centre and Bristol 2000 - the first two in the regular commission category and the last two in the monumental. In all four cases he explained how the environmental harmony was achieved
Mr. Bradley strongly argued that architects should build now to leave a current mark-a history for future generations. Projects today are often influenced by the public's appetite for nostalgia and by the developer's concern with commercial cost considerations which reduce the scope provided to architects for design..
The question period was dominated by the proposed Southgate project, the largest in Bath for the past twenty five years. Mr. Bradley had recently written about it in an article published in the Chronicle on 20 January 1998.
He maintained that our cities need to attract people who wish to live in them and that this project failed to offer sufficient housing, sufficient civic space, and to incorporate public transport alternatives. Another priority would be the consideration of a scale appropriate to Bath. This vision was wholeheartedly supported by the audience.
The audience also asked about constructing buildings that would last- that could only be the result of a culture of excellence which requires quality rather than expediency, and about the contribution of the Prince of Wales to architecture- he made architecture a subject of public debate. Another question was " How do you obtain your commission from the first client"- by convincing him that you have the imagination to translate his needs into an appropriate design and resolve the many practical problems which come up in the building process.
Mr. Suchar posed a question that had been received via the BRLSI web site regarding the length of time required to obtain planning permission: " It took approximately fifty years to build Bath, it now takes about the same time to obtain planning permission"- this is obviously an exaggeration in order to make the point, but if the period becomes unusually long one may consider consultation with another architect.
Mr. Bradley concluded by advocating a City Architect who could take an overall view of development in Bath and ensure there was both vision and appropriateness.
(Betty Suchar)