Partners: C G Fry and Sons, Chickerell Town Council, West Dorset District Council, Dorset County Council
Artists: London Fieldworks (Jo Joelson and Bruce Gilchrist)
A new open space as part of a housing development on the edge of Chickerell, a Dorset village, has been an opportunity for artist and design input that supports both a better understanding of the heritage of the site and the creation of an intergenerational public space.
Intergenerational space is open space that provides support for children, adults and encourages socialisation, i.e. space that is youth-friendly, elder-friendly, and supports relationship formation between the two. Today’s youth have little access to nurturing environments that contribute to creative invention, joyful interaction, self-discovery, exposure to nature and cultural exchange. The separation of children from the adult realms of work and leisure prevents individuals of different ages from sharing time, space, and experience. Research has shown that the tradition of separate play spaces even in residential areas has not been successful and that these play areas are often underused or misused. In contrast, an intentional strategy to develop engaging open spaces that support intergenerational congregation and interaction, especially if supplemented with programs and policies that facilitate intergenerational interaction, can yield profound results in terms of providing more social support in people’s lives, strengthening a shared sense of community and promoting a sense of collective memory and history. For more information see Reclaiming Open Space for the Young: An Intergenerational Perspective On Design by Jawaid and Matthew (2004) .
New housing proposed for Putton Lane, Chickerell has provided an ideal location to explore this issue in a living, working rural location. The village itself is not dominated by one socio-economic or age group which can be typical of many other coastal Dorset villages. It is largely a “blue collar” village consisting of an interesting mix of the indigenous population and migrants from (mainly) Weymouth and who still work in Weymouth. It is also a mix of ages with many younger families whose children attend the local Primary School (which is heavily over-subscribed) and Budmouth College as well as older retired residents.
The site for the art project is a large green area (in excess of two acres) between the proposed development and existing housing on Putton Lane. This green is protected due to its archaeological significance being the site of the old medieval village of Putton and an associated “hollow way. Based on this heritage the commissioned artists London Fieldworks have developed proposals for a mediaeval timber house frame that goes beyond standard interpretation and a didactic approach, and emerges from the ground as a collective memory of communities past. It will link contemporary residents to their future, the youth of the community. Neither heritage feature nor functional youth shelter this visually permeable structure nevertheless offers the potential of a safe meeting point for both old and young. London Fieldworks have also contributed the site’s ecological future, by proposing the creation of a historical wildflower meadow, delivered through the Management Plan for the landscaping of the area.
This project is a good example of an enlightened developer, C G Fry, taking the imitative in the development of a creative vision for the area, working in partnership with the Town Council to bring together a future community from the housing estate with existing groups. The project has been enthusiastically supported by local schools and youth groups and has been adopted by the Town Council. The housing scheme is currently awaiting planning permission and due for commencement in 2012.
For a presentation by Jo Joelson on the project see Wide Open Space conference page