Urban Update 11 May 2018 - An Urban Room for Nottingham

Laura Alvarez writes about The Legacy of the Urban Design Conference 2014

“Every town and city should have a physical space where people can go to understand, debate and get involved in the past, present and future of where they live, work and play. The purpose of these Urban Rooms is to foster meaningful connections between people and place, using creative methods of engagement to encourage active participation in the future of our buildings, streets and neighbourhoods.”

The Farrell Review (2014)


The Urban Room project

Four years after the National Urban Design Conference in Nottingham, the initial discussions that took place at the event finally became a reality. Nottingham’s Urban Room opened to the public on Friday 9th March 2018 at Number 38 Carrington Street with the 2017 RIBA President’s medals exhibition, featuring the work of architecture students around the world, including Bronze Medal winner Kangli Zheng form the University of Nottingham

Since the summer of 2017 partners across Nottingham have been working intensively to create a Nottingham Urban Room – a space both physical and digital “where the people of Nottingham go to understand, debate and get involved in the past, present and future of where they live and work”.

Contributors to the vision include Nottingham City Council, RIBA, the University of Nottingham, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham and Derby Society of Architects, the Urban Design Group, Place Alliance, Historic England, and local architects, surveyors and social enterprises. The designation of the Nottingham Heritage Action Zone supported by Historic England presented the opportunity to turn the vision into reality.

The Urban Room is located in a historic building that is part of a regeneration area that links the railway station with major retail zones. Nottingham City Council has made 38 Carrington Street available for refurbishment as an Urban Room, and offered to cover rental for the period of the Heritage Action Zone. The premises offer two floors with a ground floor space for exhibitions and events and a planned basement flexible space available to hire for workshops, meetings and events for up to 60 people.


With this project, Nottingham showcased their ability to resource expertise and supplies through intense collaboration. The opening event was a celebration of local leadership and the capacity to work in partnership across fields to deliver a shared vision.  RIBA president, Ben Derbyshire, expressed his admiration for the commitment and hard work of the many partners that collaborated and contributed to the project offering their time, skills and products, making the derelict retail space into what it is today.


According to the vision, the Urban Room will open to the public with exhibitions, fun activities and training programmes that can help the general public and those already engaged in place making to meet, network regularly and grow their place governance capacity together. The partnership has joined the Place Alliance to share knowledge and experience, and is currently working to consolidate a management strategy and to organise curation and delivery of a long-term programme of activities.


The team would appreciate any input and ideas that might contribute to the success of this exiting venture. We are seeking commercial sponsors and public sector partners for the Urban Room.  Sponsor contributions could be in the form of cash, goods or services, and we are particularly keen to form ongoing partnerships for the next four years. Supporters would be acknowledged in publicity, and on a panel located in the front entrance.  If you would like to contribute in any way to the project, discuss options for sponsorship, or use the space for anything from an afternoon to a month, please get in touch.


Working with local schools

Following the Urban Room ethos, the Urban Design Group East Midlands and akliki CIC voluntarily engaged with primary schools in the Nottinghamshire area for science week. Asquith and Oak Tree schools in Mansfield and Hollygirt School in Nottingham City participated in the programme, which was designed to inspire young children and showcase the multiple facets and wide range of carers in the built environment industry.

Primary school children from years 4, 5 and 6 enjoyed a 2-hour class packed with fun activities where they learnt the roles involved in designing and delivering the Built Environment. As junior architects they enrolled in a competition to resolve layout puzzles. They were junior engineers designing a structure with spaghetti and marshmallows and as junior architectural technologies, they tested and specify the most appropriate biscuits for a Hansel and Gretel house’ external wall.

A fully detailed set of tasks with instructions and a PowerPoint lecture can be made available to anyone interested in rolling similar programmes in their local areas.


Getting in touch

For more information please contact Laura Alvarez, UDG East Midlands at udgeastmidlands@googlemail.com.