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Exeter (UK), 2014.

Commissioned by Kaleider, and supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England and Exeter City Council.

Where to build the walls that protect us is an opportunity for us all to imagine a future city. Our city of Exeter… An architect or planner might call this sort of process a ‘charrette’ – a term that’s used to describe an intensive, collaborative enquiry that seeks to solve a complex design issue. Perhaps that sounds rather dry and dusty, but you should be assured that this is going to be an exercise in serious play. We’ll try not to get too distracted by Utopian visions. Or to worry too much about logistics. But, with one eye on the persistent fiscal crisis and the challenges of climate change, and the other on Hope, let’s look again at the fundamental fabric of our city and envisage it afresh.

After sifting through the 2013 reconnaissance material, this second, public-facing phase of the project took place over a week in September 2014. Rather than opting for the definite Masterplan model as originally pledged, it was decided to take a more fluid, iterative approach. 5 cities in 5 days. Each day built from scratch. Each day catalogued. Each day just 1 possible Exeter.

Drawing heavily upon the first phase walking reconnaissance, the work intrigued and whetted the public imagination, interrupting a different public thoroughfare each day: next to the river, on the Cathedral Green, amid the shops, outside central railway station, in front of the library. Out front a precision-engineered 3D model of Exeter. Purely topological. For those with more time and interest, a deeper engagement could be had for the cost of one hour of time. Joining team members (Stephen, Matt Fletcher and Stuart Crewes) and relevant future-facing experts they listened, talked, identified issues and questions, drew provisional blueprint solutions, represented them in clay, and added them to the day’s model. The week culminated in a ‘Powered by PechaKucha’ night at the Exeter Brewery.

Images: Stephen Hodge, Robert Darch.

Where to build the walls that protect us