Public realm design in Milton Keynes gained a boost this week with the appointment of a new chairman to the regeneration board responsible for the masterplan for revamping the city.
The recruitment of John Walker, an advisor to deputy prime minister John Prescott, to chair the Central Milton Keynes project board has galvanised a process which has been underway since October 2001.
Invitations to tender for wayfinding and public realm strategies have been put out, says Jane Hamilton, planning director at regeneration agency English Partnerships.
As artistic consultant to the Edaw-devised scheme Thomas Heatherwick Studio is expecting a ‘flurry’ of work over the next few months. The group is poised to implement a number of street-level ideas and studio head Thomas Heatherwick says work will also be on offer for other designers.
‘We’ll be working on infrastructure projects as both consultant and designer,’ he explains. ‘But we’re also responsible for a creative brief that’s ongoing.’
Heatherwick says his main proposal – that artistic thinking should consider the city as a whole – has been accepted by Edaw, Milton Keynes Council and regeneration agency English Partnerships.
When Milton Keynes was established more than 30 years ago, it was built on a Manhattan-style grid system of boulevards and intersecting streets. This ‘uniformity of infrastructure’ should be celebrated and enhanced, Heatherwick believes.
‘We need to think about central Milton Keynes like a spooky art work in its own right, rather than introducing isolated artworks and sculptures,’ he says. ‘Milton Keynes was built in a field by idealists [but] the boldness of that vision has been eroded.’
Edaw’s masterplan envisages a 20to 30-year redevelopment, but retail and housing projects by architects Allies and Morrison and Rick Mather Architects should be completed by 2005.