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North Lodge – a distinctive gateway to Maze Hill in St Leonards (photo: HUDG).

HUDG design competition aims to tap into local creativity

Hastings Urban Design Group has launched a double design competition intended to tap into the town’s creative forces and encourage design distinctiveness. Nick Terdre reports.

Hastings Urban Design Group wants to unleash local creativity onto exploring how greater design distinctiveness can benefit the town. To this end it is launching two parallel housing design competitions, both of which offer the opportunity to put forward locally relevant design proposals, it says.

In addition to offering cash prizes for the best proposals, they say they “fully intend to find a scheme that could be built, subject to available funding and any necessary permissions.”

One theme is to design a building which acts as a distinctive gateway to the town. The fishing boat in Station Plaza is an unmissable gateway feature for all who arrive in Hastings by train. Now they want housing designs displaying local distinctiveness at the three major road entry points into the borough:

  • To the north: the A21 where it passes under The Ridge and becomes Sedlescombe Road North
  • To the east: the A259 where it passes the junction with Mill Lane and becomes Rye Road
  • To the west: the A259 again, where as Bexhill Road it leaves Ravenside Retail Park behind and passes Bexleigh Avenue.

The trawler outside Hastings railway station – an unmissable gateway feature for arrivals by train.

“All three boundaries are currently marked by small insignificant mosaic signs declaring Hastings to be the birthplace of television,” they say. “Blink and you’ll miss them.”

The proposed gateway sites should be close to the borough boundaries indicated above, though it is up to entrants to choose the exact location. “We might think of these as a modern day toll-house marking entry to the Borough, but without the imposition of an entry charge!” they say.

Response to homelessness

The second theme is to develop a local response to homelessness. HUDG says, “The provision of accommodation for the homeless should be high on our agenda once CV-19 is beaten back…The brief here is to design a small, easily mobile or demountable unit for one person, or two if space can be used creatively. Any solution must contain basic hygiene and cooking facilities while exhibiting some sustainability measures.

“Site choice is up to the designer but some practical understanding of potential connection to the services is required (or not, if some alternative workable solution is demonstrated).”

Both competitions will take part in two stages. In the first, for which the deadline is 31 August, entrants are asked to submit on an A3 sheet of paper their concept and location.

For the second stage they are asked to develop a detailed design of their proposal on two sheets of A3 paper, with an outline specification and cost plan on a sheet of A4. For this the deadline is 30 November.

There is no entry fee or need to register. Entrants are asked simply to submit their proposal as jpeg images using the contact form on the HUDG website. Cash prizes will be awarded: £150, £100 and £50 for stage 1 winners, and £500, £250 and £125 for stage 2. Entries will be judged by a six-strong jury comprising three members of the group, a local artist, a craft-person and a lay-person, possibly a councillor.

The group says it would like to encourage submissions from a wide audience, including professional designers, artists and craftspeople. There will also be a special category for children under 15. They will be expected to develop their own concept ideas, but for those that prove potentially practical, they will be allocated a professional adviser to assist them with further development in stage 2.

Before you reach for your drawing pad, they want you to consider this poser: “Should buildings mimic their surroundings or should they be distinctive and challenge us visually?”

Thoughts on design

A few introductory thoughts on local distinctiveness may help the design process, they say.

“Local distinctiveness is perhaps difficult to pin down, but it is something we all recognize when we see it. It is often the reason why we chose to visit places like York, Bath, Oxford and, indeed, Hastings.

“Planning authorities often seek to maintain what they see as the character of an area by adopting a policy of all new development ‘being in keeping’ with its surroundings. At its most extreme this can stifle innovation and lead to poor quality pastiche.

“Although there are some exceptions, like central Bath and Edinburgh’s New Town, most towns and cities have developed over a significant period of time and show evidence of what, at the time, were contemporary innovative buildings, standing amidst their predecessors.

“If not already lost, we are in danger of losing that sense of historical progression should we insist on a ‘preserved in aspic approach’ to our urban fabric. Much of the appeal of our towns is the sense of progression which is evident in the mix of different styles from past eras existing side by side. The danger of always ‘being in keeping’ is that it can degrade the historic fabric with poor imitations, denying the present its proper place in history.

“Yet there are many examples, across the UK and Europe, of successful contemporary structures co-existing quite happily with their neighbours.

“So, with this competition comes the opportunity to think how development in your chosen locality can reflect our times.

“Good luck!”


Full terms and conditions can be seen here.  HUDG’s thoughts on design.



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Posted 17:29 Wednesday, Jul 8, 2020 In: Home Ground

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