The lecture by John Sparkes on the urban renewal scheme initiated by South Tyneside Council in South Shields touched upon many themes. However, the most striking one for me was the notion of preservation of historical heritage and identity. As a great admirer of everything related to history, at that point I was quick to reflect on my hometown Baku’s ongoing urban regeneration of a former industrial site, where I had an opportunity to work last year.
One of the regeneration schemes, discussed by John, concerned Holborn Riverside, located to the west of South Shields Town Centre. The site is a remnant of the former Readhead Shipbuilding Yard, which throughout its lifespan produced a handful of (approximately 130) qualitative cargo ships such as ‘Nigaristan’, ‘Baskerville’, ‘Empire Franklin’, ‘Sutherland’ and etc. Tyneside, being one of the richest industrial gems of the UK, should be recognized and signified in order for future generations to experience the historical value this area carries.
Seizing this opportunity, IDPartnership Group with South Tyneside Council have proposed an urban regeneration scheme for Holborn Riverside, demonstrated by the masterplan below. Currently, the intention is to create a high quality mixed-used neighbourhood, and retain the industrial heritage of shipbuilding docks. The architecture practice, along with providing affordable and sustainable housing, puts a strong emphasis on repurposing the remaining industrial buildings. Here, I would add that industrial buildings create “deep-seated mental associations for local residents, providing a character and distinctiveness to a neighbourhood”. In fact, on a larger scale, Tyneside shows a rather positive attitude towards restoring its industrial past through current urban regeneration and identity revitalization schemes of Tyne Quayside and Ouseburn Valley.
“A concerted effort to preserve our heritage is a vital link to our cultural, educational, aesthetic, inspirational, and economic legacies – all of the things that quite literally make us who we are” – Steve Berry
The ongoing urban redevelopment in Baku, as I mentioned above, establishes the future ‘Baku White City’ project. The area, designed by a joint effort of Atkins, Foster+Partners and F+A Architects, is located in the former oil industrial site, labelled as ‘Black City’ among the local communities. The name was given due to extensive gas, smoke and fuel emissions into the air. The local government has established the Black City in 1876 in the eastern part of Baku. It acted as the city’s industrial centre for petrol, kerosene and diesel fuel production and accommodated approximately 130 local and international-owned oil refineries. This industrial process intensified during World War II, when Baku supplied 80% of the Soviet Union’s fuel to the Soviet Army. Black City postcards in the early XX century
Considering extensive air pollution and deprivation of Black City, local authorities have initiated ‘Baku White City’ project in June, 2010. It will establish an “architectural diversity, ecological compatibility and a considered integration of the new development into the existing urban context of the city”… “The grandeur of the concept and the professionalism of the highly considered work that was carried out places Baku at the forefront of urban design and planning, and puts it in line with the world’s leading urban projects”.
Identity and Heritage. Where is it?
An incredible piece of urban regeneration at first glance! An accurate combination of residential estates, business centres, public parks and leisure zones, together with a thoughtful public transport access… However, I believe there is one major drawback in this scheme – historic heritage preservation and identity revitalization. I would specifically pay attention on the following quote from the local authorities, describing the former industrial site:
“A piece of urban heritage from the first oil boom and the result of urban development from a distant past”.
So why merely deconstruct, when you could thoroughly reconstruct?
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