Client: N/A

Location: Derby.

Justin Smith Architects have been working up concepts for key sites in Derby, in order to promote regeneration.

1. North Riverside

“Derby needs a new performance venue to replace the Assembly Rooms and in my view this has to be located at North Riverside”

I think everyone is in agreement that Derby needs a replacement for the now defunct Assembly Rooms. With the council debating the use of the existing site and possible re-locations, there is a real opportunity to design an ‘iconic venue’. When you look at the Sydney Opera House or the Guggenheim in Bilbao you can see what these signature venues bring to the image of a city.

Derby could really put itself on the map if the council were to think imaginatively. With this in mind, the riverside has been under-utilised throughout Derby’s history. A great venue located at North Riverside could help to bring life to the riverside, whilst providing a spectacular backdrop for an ‘iconic’ venue. Thinking practically, it’s convenient for the road network whilst a contemporary footbridge spanning the Derwent could link the venue with the public transport system at the bus station. Lets think imaginatively and really put Derby on the map.

2. Assembly Room

“The Assembly Rooms needs to be demolished” Let me start by saying I have always been a fan of the Assembly Rooms building which has merit as an example of brutalist architecture. Its layout and function was well devised as a performance venue. The architectural style is of its time, constructed from quality of materials, with a good level of detail. However, its scale dominates the north side of the market square and whilst its architectural quality is good, it is not ‘iconic’ or ‘world class’. Without the need for the performance venue in this location, there is an opportunity to refocus the scale, make a better connection with the market place and re-orient so that the guildhall is the primary ‘landmark’ focal point of the market place. I see the site of the Assembly Rooms site being imaginatively re-designed by a series of individual and distinct high quality background buildings, with a mixed use of leisure, retail, office, apartments and hotel. No one use is going to work in this location given the size of the site. Demolition is about the greater good of the wider context, which will not be achieved if the Assembly Rooms are repurposed.

3. Duckworth Square / Becket Well

“The former Debenhams building is forming a barrier to Becket Well” Duckworth Square and Becket Well as a whole is a real dilemma for the city. An eyesore is how it’s always described to me. The former Debenhams building has some merit as an example of modernist architecture. Again, I have been a fan of the building. However, when thinking about the wider context, the building forms a barrier to Duckworth Square behind. Lets imagine for one minute the possibilities if the building was demolished. There would be an opportunity to create a public square fronting Victoria Street. The square could contain a new Joseph Wright Gallery, in close proximity of the current museum and art gallery. This could lead onto a new boulevard that directs you to the Hippodrome theatre, which should be refurbished. A collection of mixed use buildings either side, leisure, retail, office and residential brings new development value to the area. Demolition would help the wider context and bring new development opportunity to the area.

4. DRI

“The DRI site could be a catalyst for Healthy Living” The site of the former Derbyshire Royal Infirmary has been a symbol of health regeneration in Derby for the best part of 200 years. Since the NHS trust developed the super hospital at the Royal, the DRI site has been largely abandoned. Planning permission has been secured for a mixed-use development on the site. However, the concept for the site could have been much greater. The health legacy could have been preserved for generations to come by promoting the site as a ‘green lung’ on the edge of the city center with a focus on ‘healthy living’. It is already home to many fine trees with preservation orders. It could also be home to cycle paths, running areas and energy efficient passivhaus buildings with green roofs. In addition, it could have been a perfect location for the council’s leisure strategy by locating the 50m Olympic sized swimming pool on the corner of London Road and Bradshaw Way. Our ‘healthy living’ concept retains all the development value of a dense mixed use site, however, with a bit more imagination the legacy for the City of Derby could be much greater.

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