From a big city arena to small interventions, these winners show what a valuable contribution architecture can make to our built environment. Ric Blenkharn sets out the context. Click on the images to find out more
Ric Blenkharn: Yorkshire, widely known as ‘God’s Own Country’, is the largest county in England, with two national parks, thriving historic cities and a spectacular North Sea coastline. In this context, the architecture and culture of the county is clearly mixed and varied.
While the scenic beauty is a huge draw, living and working in rural areas is tough for those seeking their own home. Rural depopulation is extreme, with many young people migrating to the cities in search of work and education. This changes the essential diversity and leaves older people isolated. Many planning policies do not encourage positive rural development, which adds to the difficulties. Rural transport and small rural schools are under constant threat.
In contrast, the industrial cities, which made the region famous, are undergoing a constant process of regeneration. Exciting new buildings appear set against a backdrop of gritty industrial buildings.
On the coastal fringes, the end of the line syndrome is rife, yet Hull is to become City of Culture in 2017. As Philip Larkin wrote of Hull in the foreword to A Rumoured City, ‘A city that is in the world, yet sufficiently on the edge of it to have a resonance.’
It is this resonance that gives soul to a county that has a clear identity, to which the architectural profession responds positively.
Like many rural counties remote from the London metropolis, its exposure to dynamic architecture is limited. Challenging contemporary design is not common visual currency. It is therefore doubly difficult to show potential clients what can be achieved. There is a real need for architectural exposure through education, exhibitions and events. This is the challenge for local practitioners. Yet in this context, the county does witness some creative buildings. They are testament to such practices’ determination.
Ric Blenkarn, Bramhall Blenkharn, Malton