Over 23th -25th November 2016, the Portsmouth Elephant Cage brought together seventeen competitively selected young Dutch and British experts in Architecture, Landscape and Engineering to work jointly on a design research collaboration with Masters students from the University of Portsmouth School of Architecture MUD Studio 5.
In answer to a comprehensive briefing they prepared three designs, in three teams, over three days for the Portsmouth Southsea frontage, in response to climate change induced rises in sea levels and the coastal defences being proposed there; exploring propositions for local and global application. The teams were supported by seven expert cross faculty design mentors.
A broad selection of relevant papers were contributed by the internationally eminent mentors: Nick Clarke (Director Ramboll, Engineers); Martin Knuijt (Director OKRA, Landscape Architects); Matthijs Bouw (Director One Architecture); Sophie Thompson (Director LDA, Landscape Architects), Julia Barfield (Director Marks Barfield Architects); together with papers from Walter Menteth (Project Compass CIC & Portsmouth School of Architecture), Indira van t’Klooster (Architectuur Lokaal) and Zane Gunton (Eastern Solent Coastal Partnership). Frank de Graaf and Alexander Lee (Royal Haskoning DHV, Engineers) provided additional mentoring.
The Portsmouth Elephant Cage concluded with a public presentation and discussion of three schemes that were developed over the programme, along with a display showing the impacts of the current proposals. This was hosted in The Portsmouth School of Architecture, at which the public and a number of key stakeholders were present. Many opportunities for enhancing Portsmouth’s frontage strategy and vision were highlighted by the breadth of new, stimulating and innovative design ideas from the three teams entitled ‘Awake, Asleep and Dreaming’ ‘Dancing Islands’ and ‘The New Common’.
It is anticipated from the subsequent discussions that opportunity will be taken to explore these ideas further, and it is hoped that the Portsmouth Southsea Coastal Defence Scheme being led by the Eastern Solent Coastal Partnership (ESCP) might be enhanced, informed and implemented, mindfully of the design opportunities that have become apparent; so that a vision can be delivered which further improves value.
The design scope and programme enhanced knowledge transfer, developed cross professional expertise and collaborative working practices; whilst developing expertise and solutions having wider application for improving city resilience and sustainability globally.
The Portsmouth Elephant Cage design research, along with video recordings will be edited into a documentary record for release in due course and to be accompanied by an exhibition that is being scheduled to travel around Portsmouth.
A return session for all participants is planned in the Netherlands in March 2017.
The Portsmouth Elephant Cage was funded by Stimulerings Fonds Creative Industrie and Project Compass. It was organised by Project Compass (Director Walter Menteth) in collaboration with Architectuur Lokaal (Cilly Jansen and Indira van ‘t Klooster) and hosted by The Portsmouth School of Architecture (Francis Graves).
An Elephant Cage is a type of design charrette developed by Architectuur Lokaal. It encourages alternative collaborative analysis and solutions of key emergent and strategic issues requiring spatial design resolutions. It is a flexible format for collaborative practice, with a competitive selection stage, which puts ‘big beasts together with mentors’; and was inspired by a Geert Bekaert review in 1965 of Architects Casson Conder and Partners’ Elephant House, Regent’s Park Zoo, London. Elephant Cages have previously been held in the Netherlands, Germany, Spain and Turkey.