Tame River Birmingham: MOBILE STUDIO WITTON, ENGLAND

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Mobile Studio partnered with MADE: a center for place-making in Birmingham, England and a team of landscape architects, artists and public historians on Tamed, a 60-year vision plan for the Witton neighborhood and its urban wild river. In a week, Mobile Studio presented the opening lecture of Birmingham City University’s Institute for Arts and Design International Lecture Series, ran a graduate level/fourth grade workshop on river justice, and activated a local free space as a temporary art studio/kitchen/recycling and community exchange radio station. We will be working with this wonderfully diverse group to pursue corporate funding as a match to the National Arts Council and Environmental Agency’s initial support of the project to contribute to both public place-making and landscape infrastructural enhancements.

Birmingham, England is a city of great history and contemporary civic imagination. Home to the 800-year-old market, the Bull Ring, and more canals than Venice, the city continues to re-invent itself, most recently through the construction of the worlds’ most fabulous public library. With rooftop terraces and a year-round film series, this newest investment in 21st century culture exemplifies a commitment to the beauty of openness and inclusivity.

DSC_0220However, a few kilometers up river, in the former ammunition factory district of the city, the heartland of war efforts, lies a neighborhood that suffers flooding rather than benefiting from the romanticzation of its pre-Victorian infrastructure and such investments in arts & design. Witton, now home to Pakastani, Kashmiri, Shri-lankan, Polish, Slovakian, Ethiopian, Tanzanian, Jamaican and many other immigrants and refugees, remains a working class neighborhood of diminished access to its natural resources. Thriving, despite gritty urban circumstances, and perhaps because of them, the extraordinary Deykin Avenue Infant and Junior school children and resourceful old-timers of the shops have banded together to lead Witton in a plight for sustainable re-design.

Mobile Studio enters the mix to facilitate this dialogue between community, designers, and policy makers. We believe in reciprocity and activate the power of thinking in public. We practice our now tested and reviewed method of participatory action research, an approach to scaffolding up the design arts education ladder to translate the messages of children regarding the future environmental justice of the river to a public art installation and 60-year local and regional design proposal for the Tame. Through the performance of the Saturday community based drawing/cooking studio, we engaged the neighborhood at large in this discussion, and transformed a forgotten corner of green space into a vital civic center. These actualities become the basis of future built works.

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For more information about the project and partners please check out:

http://www.made.org.uk/

http://www.bcu.ac.uk/biad

http://tamedproject.blogspot.com/

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