Bristol Urban Beach
Bristol’s Urban Beach was informed by developing a set of ideas to create some deeper and wider value, experimenting with ideas around place-making, civic branding, and public space.
Demos (with Melissa Mean and Indy Johar)
During the last few years a number of European cities decided to create their own beach by converting unpromising patches of concrete landscape into spaces that could be enjoyed by families, friends and young people. In response Bristol decided to create its own urban beach with the help of Demos and Zero Zero on the edge of the harbourside in Redcliffe an area that was and still is earmarked for development. However Bristol’s Urban Beach was informed by developing a set of ideas to create some deeper and wider value, experimenting with ideas around place-making, civic branding, and public space.
The beach acted as a space for celebrating Bristol’s cultural verve in areas such as digital media, music and performance poetry. The temporary use of the site enabled different users to come together and experiment with what kinds of community uses are possible, and help to encourage ownership and practical engagement. The beach provided a platform to showcase and develop Bristol’s green entrepreneurs and build awareness of sustainable living practices, which also feed into the innovation and learning opportunities.
Bristol’s ‘beach within reach’ was a free event and ran from July to August 2007, everyday from 8am until sunset, providing a chilled, sandy space for families, office workers and visitors to enjoy summer in the city. Visitors to the beach were able to play volley-ball, build sandcastles, listen to live music, or join in the different events and classes that were staged over the summer- including knitting sessions and book markets to caporia and salsa classes.
As well as creating local value for the city, the project aims to generate and share wider learning for other cities, policy-makers and practitioners. For example, the Beach was designed to test and develop new practices in terms of public participation in regeneration projects; and explore how cultural institutions can reach out and help people create their own cultural activities and value in the everyday spaces of where they live.
The Beach provided an informal amphitheatre for creative Bristol. As well as a structured programme celebrating Bristol’s cultural verve in areas such as digital media, music and performance poetry, with a strong DIY philosophy. This meant plenty of open spaces and slots for people and groups to share their creativity and passion- for example to put on a play or run a tai chi class, theatre of the beach, volley ball, muscle beach and petanque.
Redcliffe Wharf is an important site for the city- historically and strategically - as its redevelopment pushes the regeneration of Bristol further east and south. The Beach provided an opportunity to bring different people and communities together and participate in how the wharf will develop in the future. The public realm and community uses for the planned redevelopment of the site after summer 2007 remain open; the Beach was a chance to invite in different users and uses with the purpose of stimulating community ownership and practical engagement. The programme and feel of the Beach was designed to appeal to a mix of generations and inclusive of Bristol’s diverse communities; a shared space for the whole city.
Bristol Beach was a ‘beach within reach’, an alternative to flying or driving long distances for sun and sand. The sourcing, use and after-use of all materials was designed for high and visible sustainability. Through partnering with local green enterprises to deliver, for example, waste management and food supply, the Beach provided a high profile platform to showcase and develop Bristol’s green entrepreneurs and build awareness of sustainable living practices among beach goers.
Melissa Mean is a Redcliffe resident and was previously the Head of the Cities Programme at Demos where she has led a wide range of practical projects on public space, regeneration and public participation. She has worked with at a high level with a range of cities including Barcelona, Glasgow, Helsinki, Newcastle Gateshead and Stockholm, and with public, private and civic sector organizations in the UK, including the Department of Communities and Local Government, the Greater London Authority, Groundwork, the Environment Agency, the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors, Igloo Regeneration, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and English Partnerships.
Indy Johar studied and taught at Bath School of Architecture and is the co-founder of Zero Zero an architecture and social enterprise practice. Past projects include designing a zero waste, zero carbon house in the Cotswolds, community living rooms in Brierley Hill West Midlands, an ethically sourced office development in London and a low carbon neighbourhood in Mansfield.
Bristol City Council
Melissa Mean, Indy Johar
Demos and Zero Zero
Bristol City Council, Demos, Zero Zero