Feature:Let's Make It Personal

Ten tales of architecture, with pictures. Ten very different regional personalities with passion and great stories on architecture and public space.
For our 'Let's Make It Personal' feature, photographer Tessa Bunney was commissioned by Culture Company to make portraits of ten people with architectural stories to tell.

Let's Make It Personal

In Short

Harry Bowell - RSPB Barnsley – a shared passion for architecture in the heart of the Yorkshire countryside.
Veejay Taheem - Architect, Bradford - fervent supporter of culture at the centre of Bradford’s major regeneration plans.
Alison Drake, Member of the Forum Project, Castleford – champion of Castleford regeneration, soon to become the world’s first televised regeneration scheme.
Jeremy Hall - Dean Clough, Halifax - the driving force behind the £6m developments at Dean Clough, which earned nationwide recognition in BBC2’s ‘Restoration’ series.
Barbara Jones & Bee Rowan - Amazon Nails, Hebden Bridge - founders of the UK’s leading consultancy and training group in straw bale build and design.
Annamaria Edwards - Preston Road Estate Regeneration, Hull - an 18yr old who has for the last 5 years consulted with architects and young people on the Preston Road Regeneration Scheme.
Gordon Carey - Chairman, Carey Jones Architects, Leeds - founding partner of one of the country’s leading architectural practices based in Leeds and renowned for his passion and expertise on urban regeneration and inner city redevelopment.
Harriet Walsh - Self-build Eco House, Leeds - creator of one of the first ecological self build homes in the UK.
Chris Herring – Green Building Store, Meltham, West Yorkshire - founding partner of the store which supplies energy efficient, sustainable and ecological building products and pioneered the use of safer boron-based timber preservatives in window manufacture in the UK.
Nick Parsons – South Yorkshire Energy Centre, Sheffield - originator of South Yorkshire’s pioneering sustainable building demonstration centre.

The full story:

Harry Bowell - RSPB Barnsley

Harry Bowell is the North West Director of the RSPB, responsible for nature reserves in 10 counties, including Yorkshire. He and the RSPB share a passion for architecture that is evident in their portfolio of buildings that explore the built environment in the context of wetland wilderness, ranging from heritage 17th century listed buildings to contemporary glass and steel structures.

In 2003 Bowell acquired a new site to manage in the Derne Valley, just outside Barnsley, to develop it as a wetland habitat for birds with a First Phase Visitor Centre, which now attracts over 65,000 visitors per year who enjoy its spectacular views over the wetlands. To attract new urban audiences to this exceptional area they are currently in the process of designing a new environmentally and ecologically friendly bird hide with Allen Tod Architects in Sheffield, which will use a 'light footprint' to take visitors to the very heart of the wetlands.

Veejay Taheem - Architect, Bradford

Veejay Taheem has lived in West Yorkshire since 1971. After 3 years study in London, where he credits his inspirational teachers there for his interest in architecture's power to transform lives, and an extensive European tour to experience many of the ideas and issues discussed in abstract, he returned to Bradford in 1991 to set up his own architectural and design practice.

Taheem is currently involved in an advisory capacity as a design consultant with Bradford City Regeneration and is passionate about culture being at the heart of Bradford's urban regeneration plans. He noted: 'The Bradford master plan identifies a series of public realm areas with various cultural centres at the heart of the communities, these could be compared to a fireplace at the centre of the house where the family gather to meet, discuss and celebrate. It is important to ensure this vision forms the centrepiece of all future developments and should not be compromised in the euphoria of commercial expediency.’

Alison Drake, Member of the Forum Project, Castleford

Alison Drake is a retired head teacher who is one of a number of passionate campaigners working to make huge improvements to Castleford in West Yorkshire. She says: “I am so proud of my hometown and its community that I embrace any opportunity to tell people about who we are and what a great place this is. These are good and caring people who strive to make a better future for each other and our children. This is a town with a rich heritage and culture that has suffered more than most in terms of de-industrialisation, deprivation and loss of tangible heritage, yet we have never lost our pride and love for Castleford, both the place and its people. I was privileged to be part of the regeneration strategy and Urban Renaissance of the town and surrounding area, the 'VOX'; Voluntary and Community Empowerment Network. I was able to show the town to Channel 4's Talkback Producer and encourage CABE to choose Castleford for an innovative and ambitious 'Make-over' project, now the programme 'The Castleford Project'. My most important venture is the Castleford Heritage Trust's project 'The Castleford Forum' a proposed new museum, library and art gallery, which I spoke about at a national conference of The Architectural Heritage Fund in Belfast as well as other conferences.
We want a real renaissance of the mind as well as the environment. We need to inspire our young people and one way to start is by recognising our wonderful cultural heritage through building the Forum.”

For the town’s Millennium Project, a local resident Eric Crossland, was determined to put the clock back on the historic Market Hall. At a meeting called to discuss this, 400 local people declared their heartfelt desire to improve the town’s environment and pride to the extent that the Heritage Lottery Officer in attendance said he had “never been moved by anything as much in his career”. The clock was put on the Market Hall, and the Chancellor, Gordon Brown was persuaded to unveil the commemorative plaque. Local enthusiasm to turn the tide of decline together with the attendance of such a high profile figure helped the town make the case for change to its local planning authority and Yorkshire Forward. This small Millennium project has been the catalyst for a whole train of events that has led to a remarkable turn around in the town.

Because of this absolute commitment to its own regeneration, the town has been selected from nation-wide competition by Channel 4 to become the world’s first televised regeneration scheme. Its natural advantages of great transport rail, road and water links are beginning to be exploited with the help of a very supportive Environment Agency and Yorkshire Forward. The Department of Transport recently announced £14.5 million to fund a new rail and bus transport interchange and a new footbridge designed by Renato Benedetti will link the north and south banks of the town. In other parts of the town a children’s play forest and a new village are underway. Amenbury Properties have announced proposals to build 1400 homes on the river headland and Wakefield Council and partners Edinburgh House Estates have announced plans for a £50 million town centre development. This will include the creation of the Castleford Forum – the museum; gallery and library so passionately championed by Alison Drake and her other Forum colleagues.

Jeremy Hall - Dean Clough, Halifax
Jeremy Hall, the Managing Director of Dean Clough, was born in Bradford in 1962 and grew up in Mill Bank near Halifax. He went to Dartington Hall School in Devon and studied music at the Leeds College of Music. Here he specialised in saxophone and became a member of the European Youth Jazz Orchestra.

In 1982 he decided to pursue a business career and in 1983 joined his father, Ernest Hall, and began the task of regenerating the derelict Crossley Carpet Mills at Dean Clough, Halifax. As Managing Director Jeremy has overseen all the major developments at Dean Clough, which - at 2/3rds of a mile ­ was once the largest carpet mill complex in the world. He has pioneered such innovations as Dean Clough’s Travelodge Hotel, and is directly responsible for the unmatched quality of Dean Clough’s interiors - notably the high level of specification and the generosity of communal areas.

In 2003 Dean Clough earned nationwide recognition when the £6m refurbishment of F-Mill was featured in the first series of BBC2's Restoration series.

F-Mill demonstrated the benefits of matching the traditional robustness of Dean Clough’s mills with the best modern practice and innovative architectural features such as exterior glass elevators. Jeremy has applied the same approach to G-Mill, the latest development at Dean Clough, where the value of taking an sustainable product to the marketplace is already being felt.

More than 140 companies are now based at Dean Clough; employing some 3500 people. As well as a hotel, the site incorporates a Fitness First gym, and an award-winning restaurant. Dean Clough is also world-renowned as a home for the arts. It houses several galleries and a theatre, and also helps support some 25 artists and two internationally renowned theatre companies.

Jeremy has retained his love of music and has played both saxophone and guitar with a variety of musicians including Bobby Wellins, Nikki Iles and Pete Churchill. He instigated the renowned Jazz at Dean Clough season to assist tours outside of London by the likes of Stan Tracey, Kenny Wheeler, Norma Winston and this year with Lee Konitz.

Barbara Jones & Bee Rowan - Amazon Nails, Hebden Bridge

Barbara Jones and Bee Rowan set up Amazon Nails in Hebden Bridge in1995. Amazon Nails is a social enterprise, and the UK’s leading consultancy and training group in strawbale build and design, promoting low impact foundations and sustainable material choices. The company provides full design and construction drawing services, and on-site and bespoke training for self build and community groups, mainstream contractors, architects, housing associations and local authorities, universities and schools. The company's ethos is to make the construction process both accessible and affordable to all. Barbara and Dee have been involved in over 50 strawbale buildings in the UK over the last 10 years and also provide fully illustrated talks and presentations on their work in the UK and around the world.

‘Our aim at Amazon Nails is to enable more people to become involved in the building process, particularly those people who would not normally expect to find themselves on a building site. We’ve worked with people from various cultural backgrounds: younger and older people, those with different physical and mental abilities, all sorts of people otherwise excluded from construction. But we also work with the traditional members of the construction industry, such as local firms of builders, carpenters, electricians etc. to offer a different and, we believe, a more effective and appropriate way of working in the 21st century’
‘Our approach is one of integration and wholeness, to move away from the limiting stereotypes of the 20th century building site, and to liberate the imagination of each person, to expand their perception of themselves beyond what they thought they were capable of. A building site doesn’t have to be intimidating, or competitive and macho, all attributes associated with ‘modern’ building practice. Through our method of teaching we positively encourage the recognition of other skills such as the ability to organise, communicate, and share feelings, perceptions and ideas; all necessary on a building site’.

Annamaria Edwards - Preston Road Estate Regeneration, Hull

Annamaria Edwards is 18 and lives on the Preston Road Estate in Hull. When she was 13 she joined the Youth Jury which supported young people in making decisions about the estate. This was closed down so Annamaria started the Youth Forum and consulted with young people who wanted a youth facility. She has been working with architects Gowers & Bell, EC Harris, and Arc to plan and design the centre, which is now in the process of being built. She regualrly goes back out to consult with local young people to make sure the building is right for them. She noted: ‘Young people have a clear idea of what they want in buildings; that’s if they get asked’.

Gordon Carey - Chairman, Carey Jones Architects, Leeds
As well as being a founding partner of one of the country’s leading architectural practices based in Leeds, Gordon Carey is a highly respected personality in Leeds and throughout the UK property sector. It is widely acknowledged that he is the best known architect in the region and he has been responsible for many of the exciting developments that have had a positive impact on the rapidly changing face of Leeds, regenerating extensive tracts of the city’s urban landscape. He was voted ‘Property Personality of the Year’ in the Yorkshire Property Awards 2005 and is renowned for his passion and expertise on urban regeneration and inner city redevelopment. This is reflected through his appointment as a Director of the British Urban Regeneration Association (BURA) and President Elect of the British Council for Offices (BCO). Carey is a driving force within the Leeds Chamber of Commerce and the Leeds Property Forum, and is a member of the Advisory Board of Leeds University Business School. He is frequently invited as a key note speaker at regional and national conferences and appeared on national television last year to provide expert comment on the regeneration of New Orleans.

Harriet Walsh - Self-build Eco House, Leeds
Harriet Walsh – a media & arts administrator and her partner, Jonathan Lindh – an architect with Leeds Enviromental Design Agency (LEDA) have designed and self-built their own ecohouse as part of a collective with reed beds in Chapel Allerton, Leeds. Prior to the creation of this beautiful wooden family home and during the building process, they lived in a caravan with their 3 children, on-site.

Talking about the project Harriet said: ‘It's hard to believe now but when we started this project back in 1993, sustainability was still a new word and people traveled to visit us from all over the country, to see one of the few examples then available of an ecological self build. We had a clear evangelising purpose in those early days and I'm proud to say that we inspired many people with our adventure (we probably put a few off as well!). Amongst other facts I remember endlessly telling people that the standard of insulation required in the UK at that time was equivalent to what was standard in Sweden 50 years before.

‘The house itself was built with an adaptation of a self-build method pioneered by the late Walter Segal, designed so that anyone with a reasonable level of handiness can build themselves a house with materials they can buy at a builder’s merchant, with no skill in wet trades. There are a lot of Segal-inspired buildings around the UK now and they share a recognisable aesthetic as distinctive as an Edwardian terrace - the minute I walk through the door of one of our 'tree houses' I feel at home.

‘One highpoint and one regret: Three families took the project on together and the sense of community that created is something we all value. My regret is that because of the cost of land these days there's less room for self-builders who want to do something innovative and risky.’

Chris Herring – Green Building Store, Meltham, West Yorkshire
Based in the West Yorkshire town of Meltham, Green Building Store was launched in 1995 with the aim of promoting energy efficient, sustainable and healthy buildings. Founded by three experienced building professionals, Bill Butcher, Chris Herring and Steve Slator, the company grew out of their frustration with the poor availability of ecological building products.

Having experienced health problems after working with treated timber, Chris and Steve undertook extensive research into the health and environmental implications of conventional timber preservatives. Their concerns led to the development of Green Building Store’s own range of windows and doors – the Ecoplus System - which pioneered the use of safer boron-based timber preservatives in window manufacture in the UK.
Prior to forming the company, Bill and Steve designed and built the Longwood (Huddersfield) low-energy house which has been described as "one of the most energy efficient houses to have been built in the UK".1 According to Steve, ‘Concerns about global warming and the contribution that buildings make to carbon dioxide emissions were prime motivating factors.’
Energy efficiency remains high on the company’s agenda and it supplies a range of thermally efficient products - including ultra-efficient glazing and sheep’s wool insulation. Its sister company, Green Building Company, continues to be involved in energy-efficient building projects throughout Yorkshire and the Northwest.
Since its launch, Green Building Store has expanded its range of sustainable building products (supplying everything from water-efficient WCs to natural paints), offering a nationwide online and mail order service for both private and commercial customers. The Ecoplus System range was re-launched in 2005 and is now the first UK-manufactured window range to be made entirely from certified Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) 100% timber. Green Building Store has recently been short listed for “Ethical Retailer of the Year” in the Observer Ethical Awards 2006.
1. Source:'The Longwood Low Energy House' chapter in Energy Efficiency in Housing, Bell, Lowe & Roberts (Avebury, 1996)

Nick Parsons – South Yorkshire Energy Centre, Sheffield

Nick Parsons had the original idea for sustainable building demonstration centre back in the mid 90's when he worked for a local Housing Association and decided to put in a lottery bid. The bid was unsuccessful but the idea was revived again when Heeley City Farm - 25 years old this year - set up its Energy Project in 1999, as a logical extension to its existing environmental work, originally in collaboration with Sheffield Hallam University, but this relationship came to an end by the middle of 2000 due to a lack of funding.

In 2002/3, the property immediately next to the Heeley City Farm site (a former end-terrace, left detached by large-scale demolition in the '70's) was purchased early in 2004.

Nick Parsons explains, ‘The object is to take a property type typical in many towns and cities (19th Century, solid 9" brick walls, atrocious insulation) and show, through an 'eco' refurbishment, what can be done to that type of property, and how dramatically the performance can be improved. The improved property then becomes an exhibition centre for sustainable building materials and methods and renewable energy, which can be used in both refurbishment and new-build.

The refurbishment involves the use, wherever possible, of low-impact materials and avoids, wherever prudent, timber treatment altogether. We want to show that careful detailing can avoid the need for potentially harmful treatments. Recycled materials have been used wherever possible, including recycled denim insulation, recycled steel for fencing, and recycled pallets from a local steelworks, saving us approximately £1500 overall in timber costs.

‘The refurbished property will form the base for South Yorkshire Energy Centre, whose remit is to provide advice and training on a broad range of energy-related topics from basic home energy efficiency, Fuel Poverty and Affordable Warmth, through sustainable building to renewable energy.’

The South Yorkshire Energy Centre is aimed at a wide audience from building professionals right through to schoolchildren - the energy-savers of tomorrow. The Centre will be open to the public 3 days per week and will host a series of seminars on sustainable building topics. Centre staff will also run bespoke courses for specific groups, and the Centre will be available for private visits and as a venue for others' seminars.

The project has been made possible by funding from Yorkshire Forward (the regional development agency for Yorkshire), Sheffield City Council and Yorkshire Water, and by support from a wide range of Green materials suppliers and a dedicated and invaluable group of volunteers.

For general info re Heeley City Farm see www.heeleyfarm.org.uk