Urban renewal

Open spaces create opportunities for introducing accessible art for the public in places where people will benefit directly at no cost. Where open space projects are taken forward effectively, it will also be possible to promote the introduction of art and creative schemes that reflect local needs, expectations and visions for change. 

Creative schemes can help to promote cultural activities and to highlight the cultural character and value of a local area. In creating spaces, it may often be the case that art schemes are not at first considered but if promoted can add real long-term value to a local area. 

It is important to be aware that in many places, local planning authorities will have policies that promote contributions to art schemes as part of proposals. This may offer an opportunity to introduce art into a scheme if it is part of or can be linked to a development.

Case Study: The Helix, Falkirk 

Integration of art kelpie sculpture

The Helix site covers some 300 hectares of land that extends the length of the eastern boundary of the Falkirk urban area and western boundary of Grangemouth.  The area is fragmented and severed by major infrastructure, but includes community woodland, wetlands, grazing land and the Forth and Clyde canal. 

The Helix scheme connects these open spaces and creates a green heart at the centre of a new metropolitan area.  The scheme aims to reconnect people, making space for communities, creating a destination for visitors, celebrating the cultural past and delivering world class art. Iconic art works of international standing are planned to attract visitors to the site and to inspire individuals and communities to express themselves creatively. The Kelpies, two major structures in the shape of horse’s heads, positioned near the new canal entrance, are due to be installed in 2012.

Open spaces can provide venues for meeting and performing as well as learning and enjoyment. Approached with thought and reference to local customs and interests, including direct engagement with the relevant communities, an open space project can have a particular value for promoting cultural activity, often at little or no cost. Internet searches on local authority web sites show up how open spaces are used across the UK for hosting activities including for example, in Glasgow, the Southside Festival, hosted in Queens Park, which celebrates life on the south side of the City and its cultural diversity and community spirit.

There are many opportunities for promoting cultural activity and for placing open spaces at the heart of communities. www.loveparksweek.org.uk, a website hosted by the charity Greenspace, describes a range of events, including rock concerts, brass bands, children’s parties, dog shows, food festivals, crafts fairs, history walks, art in the park, children’s archaeological digs, literature festivals, and more. 

This all proves that there are considerable opportunities for promoting cultural activity and for placing open spaces at the heart of communities.

Meeting places

Creating an open space will, unless the site is closed off for safety or privacy reasons, generate a space for meeting.  In developing options therefore, how a space will be used will be critical to the overall vision and scheme design. Providing seating areas and view points can help to manage how spaces are used and contribute to creating a sense of place, community and security.

Case Study: Connswater Community Greenway

Integrating previously developed land

The Connswater Community Greenway is a £32 million investment in East Belfast. The project has been developed by the East Belfast Partnership and is funded by the Big Lottery Fund, Belfast City Council and the Department for Social Development.

The Connswater Community Greenway will create a 9km linear park through East Belfast, following the course of the Connswater, Knock and Loop Rivers, connecting open spaces, previously developed land (PDL) and remediating the Connswater River.

The project involves the creation of a civic square and transforming previously underused, inaccessible, unsafe and unconnected sites for the communities in their hinterland.

Historically, the local community has turned their back on the river. This Project will deliver new benefits from the Castlereagh Hills to Belfast Lough and beyond, creating a community asset that will become an immediate living landmark.