Annual Ironbridge lecture 2015
The Urban Splash Story – How Celebrating Heritage is Consistent with Celebrating the Best in Original Modern Design
Presented by Tom Bloxham MBE
Chairman and co-founder of Urban Splash
Chancellor of The University of Manchester
Trustee of Manchester United FC Foundation
The 2015 Annual Ironbridge lecture in partnership between the University of Birmingham and the International Ironbridge Institute was held at Ironbridge and Gorge Museum on Tuesday 20th October. The talk was given by Tom Bloxham MBE, founder of Urban Splash a heritage regeneration company founded in 1993. Urban Splash’s literature comments that, ‘together they wanted to bring back into use the ample stock of wasted empty buildings lying around at that time in Liverpool and Manchester; with an ambition of filling them with the growing band of post-punk kids looking for cool spaces to live in and trade from’. Over time this has spread to all major cities around the UK, and Urban Splash has become a national leader of regeneration in its field.
The talk was very informative; Tom made note of previous success stories, I have yet to hear from one that failed! and also commented on current projects. These centred on Sheffield, Bristol and most excitingly Birmingham. The Sheffield project is one of the company’s most ambitious to date, seeing the regeneration of the quarter of the city that aims to create a hub for northern businesses, and a go to place for the young; the University of Sheffield has recently opened a campus there.
The Birmingham project was confirmed to the press only days before the lecture and Urban Splash hopes to follow on from the success of the previous regeneration of Ford Dunlop in the city. Urban Splash comments, ‘Birmingham City Council and the Canal & River Trust have chosen us as preferred development partner for Icknield Port Loop alongside Places for People. The huge 43 acre canal side site, sits close to the city centre and will deliver in excess of 1,000 homes’ (urbansplash.co.uk/news/newsletter). This is an indication of the company’s progress over twenty years since its foundation, that it has the ambition to pull off a regeneration project this large.
During his lecture Tom noted the impact of the 2007/8 recession on the company. The downturn in profits necessitated a change in emphasis, but the overall message of continuing to invest and stay true to the founding principles of the company is a positive message we can all hope to learn from.
The use and preservation of former industrial buildings and heritage sites is of significance to all historians, to preserve our past and as an education tool for the next generations. The prospect of losing our past, whether industrial, early modern or even medieval remains in a building, is a possibility. It is only through concerted attempts to save it and try to find modern uses that it can then survive into the twenty first century. Leaving buildings and artefacts to decay should not be an option.