Right, then. Who wants to be an architect? This month sees your chance to grill three practices getting involved in a new strand of the Bristol Open Doors programme

For over 20 years, Bristol Open Doors – taking place this year from 14–16 September – has been unlocking the city for one weekend annually. Offering the chance to see the buildings and spaces that make Bristol special has always been the festival’s raison d’etre: but what about the people who create those buildings?

The work of architects has a profound impact on our urban environment, affecting the lives of everyone, every day, but rarely do we have the chance to engage with the architects themselves. During Bristol Open Doors this September, three of the city’s leading architecture practices – Stride Treglown, Purcell and Ferguson Mann – are inviting Bristolians into their offices to find out about how the architectural process works. This forms part of a new festival strand, in partnership with the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), that highlights new projects in the city and the architects who are designing them. It comes at a time when city spaces are in more demand than ever and projects to reimagine old buildings and create new ones have been joining our cityscape thick and fast.

We sat down with the firms, all of which occupy renovated historic buildings and specialise in restoration and re-use, to find out more about their involvement in the festival and to give their two cents on Bristol’s architectural future.

Clifford Martin, partner, Purcell
Office: The Old Police Station, Bedminster

Why did you get involved in Bristol Open Doors?

Purcell is actively engaged with the local community and particularly the Bedminster BID, so is keen to support the local interest in the Old Police Station. In addition to our own building, which we share with Preconstruct, we have also been involved in a number of other festival venues: Arnos Vale, Clifton Cathedral, Clifton Suspension Bridge, The General, The New Room/John Wesley’s Chapel, St Mary Redcliffe and St Bernadette’s.

The Old Police Station – what were the lessons learned?

With an imaginative solution, the repurposing of old buildings is something that is readily achievable and gives them a prolonged life while respecting and retaining the heritage elements for future generations to enjoy.The jazzy Old Police Station cells

What is the future of design in Bristol?

The sense of community in Bristol is very strong and the people of Bristol are engaged and opinionated and this can be seen in the developments which take place in the city. The architects who navigate the spaces do so with appropriate architecture, derived from need and from community consultation. There is real opportunity for the reuse and extension of historic fabric to invigorate old buildings within the community with new uses, which is reflected in our work at St Mary Redcliffe and Clifton Tolls.

David Caird, director, Ferguson Mann
Office: 6 King Street

Why be involved in Bristol Open Doors?

Our office has an interesting history that can only be fully understood by coming inside: the outside of a building so often contradicts what lies within. We have always supported Bristol Open Doors – it opens the eyes of all sorts of people to the richness of our built environment and opening our building is a great way to practically contribute to the widening of this knowledge.6 King Street by Ferguson Mann Architects

What did you learn from 6 King Street?

Adapting 6 King Street for our own use was a modest project, yet we really enjoyed gently turning this small, sensitive interior into a practical, modern design studio by adding new components to talk of the period in which we live yet leave the original fabric clearly legible. It is a joy to work in!

What do you feel is the future of design in this city?

The next major focus of inner city development in Bristol will be St Phillips Basin as the doors open to this area of post-industrial land: this includes the city’s plans for Redcliffe Way, the new masterplan for Temple Meads Station and the University of Bristol’s new enterprise campus. The city is bringing forward a masterplan for the basin and land is being exchanged on sites along Feeder Road. Watch this space!

For us at Ferguson Mann, we are excited about the forthcoming completion of our major Lakeshore development at Hartcliffe for Urban Splash. Phase 2, which will deliver 136 apartments with the addition of the new Copper Building, is due to complete in June 2019.

Kasia Jemiol, interior designer, Stride Treglown
Office: Promenade House, Clifton

Why did you want to get involved with Bristol Open Doors?

We are fortunate enough to occupy a distinguished building, where we’ve just completed a top-to-toe refurbishment, that is often photographed by visitors to Clifton. We’re sure it’s not just architects and historians who would like to see what it’s like inside! We are also pleased to be offering tours of two of our other projects – Paintworks and the refurbished Victoria Methodist Church. Bristol Open Doors gives us a great platform to explain the role of an architect to anyone with an interest: not just what we do, but why we do it.Promenade House

Tell us a little about your work on Promenade House

Refurbishing Promenade House was a great challenge: we wanted to create a modern, flexible workplace for our staff while preserving and enhancing unique period features – all while keeping the office operational during the work. In a building full of architects and designers, we could have been subject to a lot of criticism. Happily, though, the project has received a lot of positive feedback from both staff and visitors.

How do you feel about the future of design in Bristol?

The tall buildings agenda rages on, almost keeping pace with the arena debate, while whispers of an underground metro system take shape. While all of these are progressive and can be positive for our city’s future, it’s important they are designed holistically and integrate into the fabric of Bristol’s built environment. Rather than just being done to turn a profit, we need to understand how new development can be delivered to benefit people’s wellbeing, enhance natural assets, reflect our identity and successfully contribute to shaping future places.

This year, Bristol Open Doors boasts over 100 buildings tours, site visits and family excursions; so put the date in the diary, pick up a programme and plan your weekend of exploration.

• See the full line-up at bristolopendoors.org.uk


What does it mean to make a great place?

To be successful, developments need more than just architecturally beautiful buildings: they need to be vibrant places that enrich the fabric of the city. In partnership with engineering firm Arup, Bristol Open Doors is also featuring a number of venues and experiences that consider how Bristol can create positive developments ideally suited to live, work and play.Arup is also hosting a talk on designing cities that allow children to thrive 

Arup is leading the placemaking agenda by hosting ‘Designing for Urban Childhoods’, a topical talk on designing cities that allow children from all backgrounds to thrive. They explore the importance of considering the young as the city rapidly develops. A similar event driven by creating communities and integrating young people in the fabric of the city will see representatives from the University of Bristol discuss their new home at Temple Quarter Enterprise Campus. Showing us how it’s done, the festival also hosts two site tours of the hugely successful redevelopment projects of Paintworks and Wapping Wharf, both of which have put people at the heart of their schemes and saw that to make a vibrant, liveable community, a mixed-use approach was required. Proving placemaking can be, and is most successfully, done through grassroot projects the festival will open artist-led sites of Hamilton House, The Island and Malago Berry Maze, showcasing successful repurposing of disused spaces for communal needs. This month, discover the people and places that led to Bristol being voted Britain’s ‘best place to live’.

This year, not only can you unlock the city and get behind the usually-closed doors of some of its most interesting buildings, but meet those responsible for designing our everyday urban environment