NORTHERN POWER HAUS

Elliott Briggs

 

Leeds Beckett University, UK.

The Northern Power-HAUS: Gateshead Fashion Institution, is a collaborative design studio space for Fashion Graduates in the North East of England. Based in Gateshead the project aims to combat the lack of creative jobs in the North of England by providing a variety of studio spaces, ranging in size and providing the associated facilities. The idea is that the studios would be rented on flexible short term leases, dependent on demand and work loads of the designers using them. The initial idea to create a co-operative working space for students and graduates in the North came from my own experiences, having studied Undergraduate Architecture at Northumbria University in Newcastle and Postgraduate Architecture at Leeds Beckett University I have invested my architectural education to two great Northern cities, and like many creative design students, I am now beginning to search for a job. Most of the best Architecture practices and Designers are based in London, and I wanted my thesis design project to create an alternative for design graduates who don’t want to work in London. The studio spaces would be rented by graduates and people trying to build their own brand, to provide a space that can be theirs to work in freely, on a flexible contract, as many people couldn’t afford to buy or rent a studio alone, or have the space to work productively at home. 

Elliott could you give us an introduction about yourself, where you have studied, what stage you are in your architectural career/degree and also any of your interests or specialities?

 

I have just finished studying my Masters of Architecture at Leeds Becket University, and am due to graduate in July. I studied undergraduate Architecture at Northumbria University, and had a year working in a practice in York in between. Having studied at two universities has given me two completely different perspectives on the approach to architectural design. Studying at Leeds Beckett I have been encouraged to use a vast range of different media to develop and illustrate my work. In the first year of my Masters I worked in a studio group focusing on film and film essays, this was completely new to me and it was fascinating making films showing how people would use my building. I was fortunate to experience a different studio group for my second year, being inspired by intelligent fabrication and parametric design, this studio was more technology based which I feel has prepared me for the way that architecture is really designed in practice. At Leeds Beckett I was encouraged to incorporate my interests and passions into my design projects, I have always been obsessed with fashion and the construction of garments. This obsession is partly what made me design the Northern Power-HAUS project.

 

The Northern Power-HAUS project aims to provide creatives such as architecture graduates opportunities to be surrounded by design in a location other than London, what are your thoughts on design opportunities for graduates outside of the capital?

 

I do think that we are starting to see the beginning of the end of London being the place to go if you want to work in a creative industry, everything is instantly shared and transferred over the internet now, there is no need to be in London when we are so globally connected no matter where you are. Until recently most of the best career opportunities for design graduates have been in London, but cities such as Manchester, Newcastle and Leeds are rapidly developing a diverse creative culture. I have many friends and family that work in fashion and other design industries choosing not to make the move to London, and opting for one of these Northern cities as an alternative. I do think that the cost of living in London is partially to blame for the shift to the North, and as I am at the end of my architectural education and am beginning to search for employment it is something that is heavily influencing my job hunt.

Your projects location is the South Tower of Tyne Bridge in Gateshead, why was this location chosen over other alternatives in Northern England?

 

When I returned to university for my final year I was given a great piece of advice by my tutor, which was "stick with what you know". I know that university is the time to be experimental and where you begin to find your design style, but if you know what you want to do, where you want to do it the rest is easy-ish. I studied in Newcastle so was familiar with the site, and going over it on the train to and from York for three years, I always thought that it was a shame that nothing was being done with it. The building itself is so iconic, and for the first fashion institution of its type in England I wanted to choose a Northern icon to be the host, a flagship that would be instantly recognisable. The building is designed for recent design graduates, and the number of students in Newcastle is insane, and the number just keeps rising each year which is why I decided to design something for design graduates in Newcastle, so that they have an opportunity to build a career there once their studies have ended. Throughout my research proposal for the project I had suggested that once the building was established it could be used as a model, and copied in other Northern cities as part of the same institution network. I am also interested in the regeneration of cities, and the continuous redevelopment of Gateshead, in particular the Arts Quays is what made me chose the site, as a way to suggest how I feel that a city could be improved and developed with the people that are already there, instead of building fancy apartment blocks to attract new people to moved there.

 

The scheme reinvigorates an existing unused structure by utilising the South Tower, what are your views on re-use as opposed to demolition in contemporary architecture?

 

I am a huge advocate for the re-use of existing buildings and always have been. When I was 3 my parents bought a derelict Water Tower on the outskirts of York and renovated it into our family home, so I have always been surround by an old building given a new purpose. I do think that there is often a tendency to jump straight in and take old buildings down just to be replaced, I'm aware that this is often a cheaper and easier option, but I do think it is a shame to demolish parts of our history to make room for our future, when the two could be combined. Being able to see a clear definition between an old structure and a new hyper modern intervention, or even a building that has been subtly renovated is something that I think is wonderful and should be championed.

You mention the importance of knitting and the exploration fabrics within your project, could explain how this was infused within your design?

 

I have always been interested in fashion, and selfishly, to try and make the project as enjoyable as possible for myself I wanted to incorporate something that I enjoy outside of university into my design. Taking something that you do outside of university and bringing it into your design projects is definitely a way to make the work seem less like work, we all know how challenging an Architecture degree is. I chose to explore knitting in particular because I think its amazing how continuously looping and weaving a piece of wool around itself, creates an overall larger structure, all from one material. There are a series of walkways weaving through my site. I think that people often forget about the outdoor spaces on a project, but I believe that the external spaces around a site are just as important as the architectural development themselves. These walkways connect all the varying studio spaces across the site to each other, as well as into the tower of the Tyne Bridge and are a continuation of the architecture. As the weather in the North isn't the most reliable I wanted to create a way of using fabrics and tensile structures to create shelters for parts of these walkways, so that they could be used all year round, the idea was that I have designed them to be made using the same techniques as knitting, but with a more weather proof fabric, and that they could be potentially changed by the graduates occupying the building, as the seasons change, an opportunity to exhibit and advertise their work outside the building whilst providing a function.

You have a very distinct graphical style, what persuaded you to portray your design in this fashion?

 

I have never really been any good at computer renders and trying to create a photorealistic representation of my building, would never have been convincing, also it didn't really fit with my inspiration. I have always loved the fashion campaigns of the 1990's, and wanted to portray my work in a very simple and minimal way to try and replicate that. I spent a lot of time trying to find a way to represent my own style and my own personal taste in my work. During undergraduate studies we were all taught to use the same programs, with the same moody skies but I just never really identified with it. When I look back at my undergraduate work I feel it looks like something a complete stranger produced, it isn't recognisably me, anyone could have done it. I wanted to produce renders that I liked, that was what was most important to me for my final ever university project. I have quite minimal taste in most aspects which is why I chose to do my work this way, also some of my peers from university insisted that architectural renders HAD to be photorealistic and that mine weren't believable, I didn't realise that there was a strict rule of how to do these things!

Could you provide our readers with an insight into your drawing process, do you use a particular software to produce your drawings?

 

Going back to my tutors advice of "stick with what you know" I used computer programs during my Masters studies that I had learnt in practice. The academic year goes so fast, one minute it is the end of September and you are deciding what you want to design, and then the next thing you know you need to start doing your final renders. I chose to use programs that I found easy and quick to use: all of my axonometric and line drawings are done in ArchiCAD. The renders for this project where 2D graphics exported from a SketchUp model, then opened in AutoCAD so I could alter the line weights. When I had changed all the line weights I opened the drawing in Photoshop and just filled all the block colours in with the Paint Brush and Fill tools. I made sure that the line drawing was the top layer, and then just inverted it so the lines changed from black to white.

 

Has anybody or anything in particular influenced your graphic style or influenced you during your architectural studies?

 

There hasn't been a stand out individual that has influenced my designs or the development of my style. However, I am definitely a minimalist and have always loved Mies Van Der Rohe there is something about the simplicity of his designs that I am drawn to. But I think that the development of my style is certainly influenced by my interest in fashion, I sit looking over fashion magazines for hours, and they always look so slick and clean in my opinion, which is what I have tried to replicate in my work.

What are the top 3 things you have learnt through undertaking this project?

 

I think that the main thing that this project has taught me, is that I actually know what I am doing, sort of. It's taught me that I should definitely trust myself and my instincts more and that I can use strengths that I have in other aspects of my life in my work. Secondly, computers! I've already said that computer renders have never been my strong suit, I was a bit of a technophobe to be honest. But I have actually learnt a lot in this project using a few different programs, I am definitely a lot more confident using them now. Lastly this project has taught me the power of collaboration. I had spent hours with fashion students at Northumbria University and Leeds Beckett for research, watching them work and listening to what they had to say trying to use some of their techniques. I think talking through your ideas and what you want to do with someone who isn't an Architect or studying architecture can be massively helpful. People in different areas of design have different approaches to things, and completely different skills that you can learn and use to better yourself and your work.

 

If you could offer one piece of advice to our architecture student followers what would it be?

 

Definitely to just believe in yourself, and design something that you love. I was always a bit unsure of myself and my work and spent a lot of time comparing what I was doing to my peers, but in my final year I have just gotten rid of that attitude concentrated on what I am doing and been confident in my abilities. You should obviously always listen to your tutors because they are there to help you get the best from your project, but don't be afraid to challenge them and explain why you have done something. 

 

Finally, where can people find out more about you and your projects?

 

Go and have a little scroll on my instagram @eb_architecture, which is solely for architectural work, but elliottbrigg if you want to see pictures of dogs and my holidays. The Leeds Beckett Degree Show: Think opens on 1st of June and will be being exhibited for a few weeks so if you get chance, go and have a wander round, my work is up there along with amazing work from Graphics, Fine Art and Fashion.

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