Land Design Studio is developing an architectural brief for the Digital Exploration Centre in Southend, Essex.
The proposed centre will celebrate the use of digital technology in academia, the arts and the commercial sector. The concept is based on the Ars Electronica centre in Austria (pictured), for which Land also procured and briefed architects.
Stephen Hetherington, former chief executive of The Lowry arts centre in Salford, is heading the project. He appointed Land about two years ago on the strength of its work for Ars Electronica, which is also an advisory partner on the scheme.
Hetherington indicates that the centre’s creation will provide pitching opportunities for designers, who ‘will play a major part in this project’, although currently Land is the only design group working on the DEC.
Land will not necessarily take on the exhibition design contract. ‘We will have to wait and see whether we get it, but I like being in a position of procuring and making things happen, rather than being a practitioner,’ says Land creative director Peter Higgins.
Higgins is enthusiastic about Land’s procurement role. ‘It is an interesting development for us to move into a consultancy role, particularly as there should be more design expertise on the procurement side of projects,’ he says.
Architects, designers and other contractors will be appointed close together, once the project has got the green light and secured funding. ‘This building will work from the inside out rather than the outside in, with a complete team working together from the start,’ says Higgins. He criticises the recently closed Public Gallery for ‘damaging the name of UK digital projects’. The DEC has yet to attract funding, but urban regeneration company Renaissance Southend is supporting the project, including the initial plans for the centre in its 2007 Regeneration Framework.
Several possible sites for the centre have been identified, the current favourite being in the St John’s area of the town, near the seafront. The DEC is currently under consultation.
Southend’s Digital Venue
• Southend Digital Exploration Centre will aim to explore the use of digital technology in the arts, academic research and the commercial sectors
• The centre has so far secured three partners and participants representing each sector, whose work could be displayed in the venue/ Olympus Keymed, a Southend-based medical equipment design and manufacturing group; University of Essex School of Entrepreneurship and Business; and digital artists’ collective Richard Pierre-Davis, Mervin Jarman and Matsuko Yokokoji