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24 September 2014
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New City Centre
The 'Vision' of things to come, Bradfords new city centre.

The man with THE plan!

Ever wondered how we'll be living in 2020? I've been chatting to a man who thinks he's got some of the answers. Amongst other things controversial architect Will Alsop wants to create a big lake in the city. I gave him a quick call on his mobile (ya know as ya do?!) to ask him about his "vision" for Bradford...

As we all know Bradford's got some big plans for the future. This is what Will Alsop had to say to me about his vision.

What is your 'Vision' for Bradford. How do you think the city ought to change?

"Bradford is a very interesting city that was ruined in the '60s and '70s in particular, also it has some very fine buildings in it from the Victorian period and also from the start of the 20th century but they then began to put a lot of rubbish in between.

Our Vision For Bradford, worked out with the people of Bradford over a long period of time, was to take all those bad buildings away so we can see the good buildings that are left. We also want to replace some of the buildings with new ones to give the city an identity and to create a heart for Bradford. Another important thing we want to do is make Bradford very distinct from Leeds."

Will Alsop
The man with the plan, Will Alsop.

What would you say to those who don't support your proposals?

"They had lots of opportunity to participate and make their views known. We tried to use all the things people were talking about as aspirations for their city. Inevitably there will always be those who don't like what you're talking about. I think this is because people don't like change very much, they like what they know and maybe they are afraid of change.
The good news is, once we do change things, people often like it very much!"

The new plans propose lots of green space and a large water element. Do you think this is practical in a modern-day working city such as Bradford?

"Yes, there is a lot of green space and a big water element planned for outside the town-hall this is a gathering place and represents the heart of Bradford. At the moment if you said to someone in Bradford, 'Where do you think the centre of Bradford is?' They don't really know, so this is to symbolise the middle of the city. The green spaces come about as a lot of roads will be taken out. There are excessive ring roads and we want to celebrate people not cars!"

What are the chances of these green sites being abused?

"The lake is where the police station is so this would be hopefully a deterrent."

Do you think the new plans will bring our multi-cultural society together?

"I think the thing that brings people together is the idea of civic pride i.e. you're proud to live in YOUR town or city. I'm not saying that design itself can help any sort of racial problems, but it certainly doesn't do any harm. It is defiantly a step in the right direction."

I am one of the next generation of Bradford people. What will the new plans hold for people of my age?

"I hope you'd find it rather beautiful, relaxing, and a good place to meet your friends. I hope that when you get older you'll just be able to sit there and enjoy the view, just sit there and do nothing.
On the other hand as a slightly younger person there will be places to eat, drink, shop, to meet and to go clubbing, and what have you."

Green Spaces in Bradford
The walkway to success?

Do you not think that there could be too many green spaces open to abuse - it could be dangerous or be places to meet up and sell drugs?

"That might be true! But it's very much the idea that if you create a beautiful place it has a claming effect. If you look at wealthier places than Bradford, these problems never go away but are certainly reduced. So I think the 'Vision' will help. It's as though someone's taken this wonderful place, and forgotten it, and not put any real love into to it for a long period of time."

Some people may argue that a lot of historic buildings will be torn down and some of the city's culture will be lost. How will you compensate them?

"That's not true, in fact, it's quite the reverse. We want to keep the old buildings and put them into a setting that people can really appreciate, and clean them up and find new uses for them."

I recently visited an exhibition of yours at Urbis in Manchester. I enjoyed your ideas on the M62 tunnel. Will Bradford be part of this if it ever happens?

"I think Bradford is inevitably an important urban centre within the bigger picture I was exploring in that exhibition. The idea comes from what I'd observed anyway, if you look at all the different towns and cities going right across the Pennines they are like one big city in the way they are used. If that is the case then there should be more sharing, and I'm saying that there could be some new towns and villages along the M62, and with a bit of spirit and cooperation you've got a city that has a population of more than 15 million people. If it works, together there's a strength and a power that can challenge south east England and London in particular."

How do you look into the identity of a city? Did you consider there is a large Asian community in Bradford?

"There were a few problems with the Asian community as they were a little bit shy in expressing themselves, in their dreams and ideas, and that is bad, but it is something they have inherited. But what I have found out form listening to these people is that they want their town to be different from any other, and they want to be proud of their city, but at the moment it's difficult."

How did you do the research for the designs?

"We had lots of workshops; we gave them paintbrushes and bits of paper and asked them to dream about their town and what it could be like in 20 years time. It was good fun as well!"

Sky line 2020
New city sky line for'2020 Vision'.

In the 1960s many plans were made to regenerate Bradford but they all resulted in unfinished concrete jungles. Would there be any chance of your design having the same effect?

"That's always a difficult question to answer. They were done in good faith, I believe we know a lot more about how people live and about urban life than we did in the 60s, and therefore we are more likely to get it right. Instead of having an idea of what a city should be, instead you listen to the city and then put it together in some sort of vision. This is what we've tried to do in Bradford."

Have you taken into account any of the original designs or have you scrapped them all and gone all out with your own designs?

"I was just appalled that 90% of what was built in the 60's has been low budget, with high maintenance costs, not very ecologically sound or sustainable and wasn't really doing anything for the city at all. So we tried to avoid that and looked to the future!"

My interview went really well and it was fantastic to speak toWill Alsop in person. as a designer myself I find him completely inspiring . He is the man who I believe is going to change our city's future for the better and I really think people should show a little bit of gratitude because he is a complete genius!!

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