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The Second Jessup Lecture

Leading architect George Ferguson delivers the second Jessup lecture.

George Ferguson, past President of the Royal institute of British Architects, and leading campaigner for better urban environments, told the audience at the New Walsall Art Gallery, that good architecture made a huge economic difference if you got it right. It is people who bring places to life and development had to involve them at an early stage. He called on designers, planners, developers and investors to consider the needs of people and to be bold in the art of making good places.

His lecture entitled “IT’S THE PEOPLE STUPID” (the ingredients for real regeneration) enlarged on this theme, using a series of images (both old and new) from around the world. Drawing a parallel with those urban spaces and developments in the Midlands region. Mr Ferguson contended that, “The value of regeneration cannot be measured in buildings but how those buildings relate to their place and the amount of activity, both economic and social that they generate.”

He urged the audience to learn from successful places and cities with a real ‘vibe’. “Don’t simply go by the rules and end up with something the same as everywhere else.” Places that worked well had a mix of uses, saw old and new buildings working together and were connected with transport links and ‘walkability’. “To make good places we have to take risks. Risk averse design makes places dull,” he argued. “We need to get it right and bring quality to the Midlands and hopefully investment as well’.

Mr Ferguson praised the Walsall’s New Art Gallery as a good example of iconic architecture that was helping to regenerate the town as a focus for the new canal quarter. He also told how impressed he was with the transformation of Birmingham city centre where mistakes of the 1960s were being put right.


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