There is a lot of talk regarding regeneration in Ayrshire, take it from us, they have called in the experts. Julian is founder and Managing Director of Ironside Farrar an Award Winning creative regeneration specialist whose team is currently assisting the Ayrshire Council’s on the Ayrshire Growth Deal and the delivery of various aspects of the Irvine Vision.
You are well known for the HELIX regeneration project, renowned for housing the Kelpies, and how challenging was it to put it all together?
HELIX was a wonderful challenge. A real celebration of a place and communities and we had the very good fortune to lead this exciting and transformational project. Great projects typically come from great clients. Clients that understand the communities they serve, who offer clear leadership and can connect up the dots that turn visions into realities. We had a client that believed in ideas and the value of design and engagement and with the confidence to aim high and promote a big vision.
HELIX originated with a programme by the Big Lottery called ‘Living Landmarks’. A UK wide competition to develop new living landmarks. We prepared a Bid recognising that any living landmark needed to reflect and build on the aspiration of its communities. Some 300 plus bids were received for across the UK with 25 selected as promising ideas for further development. We won.
Where did the idea for the HELIX originate and how did it come together?
HELIX was a true fairy-tale. It started like one of those stories you make up for your children when they want to be enthralled. It started with a very small – but at the same time – a very big idea. As in – “once upon a time there was a place that everyone forgot. It was a place of voids and empty isolated spaces of monstrous industry and ghouls and it was called Falkirk-Grangemouth…”.
It started by pushing out and embracing change.
It started with the knowledge that communities in Falkirk and Grangemouth deserved something better. That better opportunities would come from getting people to work together. Transformational change was required. Falkirk Council and Scottish Canals came together and as a Client Team embraced the idea of change. Bold ideas and thinking supported a design process that, through 3 stages of submissions, helped win a National Living Landmarks Award of £25 million. We led the Bid and master-planning process.
IronsideFarrar describes themselves as environmental consultants, how would you describe yourself and how did you get into this line of work?
My mum thinks I have the best job in the world – paid to colour up drawings. The reality is a little more complex but I love my job and the day-to-day challenges, variety and scope that it offers to meet and work with people on creating change.
The critical thing is in how we work – it’s always a team effort. Fresh thinking and creative design is at the heart of it. Working with talented people and people with a real commitment to their locality, village, town or place. Searching out for new ways to look at things, new opportunity to change things for the better and most importantly making it happen on the ground – making good the fairytale.
Where do you think the inspiration for your work come from?
Overall, I think it’s less about inspiration than a sense of responsibility. You take on a responsibility when you share with others their dreams and aspirations. You feel a responsibility to squeeze the best out of any project. To think a bit further. To join up the dots. To be bolder. To find a way forward – to create strong valued outcomes. We like to think we listen as well as we talk and we find the right balance between bold ambition and real world delivery. We hate it when we leave good ideas on the drawing board.
What, from all the work you have carried out, makes you most proud to say you designed it?
I work across a lot of areas and probably the most satisfying and pleasing projects have been smaller projects – where you made the biggest difference. Clearly delivering the HELIX has been a large and noteworthy project. We have unlocked £40+ million in a project that has been taken to the heart by its communities and will keep giving and giving – and that’s particularly satisfying.As a team we’ve also won a lot of awards and helped some very small groups find money and deliver on their ambition. I’m proud at how we have helped others find a voice and articulated through our design skills their ideas.
What new projects are you working on?
That’s a – Liquorice Allsorts type of question – in that we enjoy a very wide range of design work. Perhaps better if I described a typical week.
I nearly always start the week in Edinburgh where we are developing design proposals Mid week was Castlebay and developing the Scottish Governments Place Standard Tool in a Charrette in the Western Isles. Thursday was St Andrews for the development of St Andrews Harbour with a visit to Fife Energy Park for site masterplanning. Friday was catching up with the team in Edinburgh and a lovely little Shared Surface Cycle Friendly Townscape scheme called ‘The Causey’ and a visit to the contractor on the new Bristo Square.
Always different, always challenging, always wanting more.