Project 24

The marina at Bangor has been undergoing something of a renaissance of late, a major redevelopment of Pickie Park has already proved a hit with locals and tourists, and now one cannot miss the colourful new additions on Queen’s Parade, as six art pods and a community garden have taken up residence on what was previously a neglected and derelict site. The introduction of these pods was the novel solution to a site that has craved major redevelopment for close to 20 years. Earmarked for a £100m redevelopment, the seafront locale has been the subject of much disappointment, until now.

Architects Hall Black Douglas were commissioned, upon winning an open competition, to bring life, culture and people back to the seafront by realising the ambitions of Project24. A £288,000 (£150,000 build cost) investment by DSD and North Down Borough Council was secured to provide a space for showcasing local artists. The installation is temporary; the pods will remain for two years, providing valuable time for future redevelopment plans and finances to be secured.

The six art pods sit amongst a community garden that incorporates pathways, planter boxes, landscaping, and outdoor seating. Scattered across the site, hinting at the frustrations and uncertainty this plot has suffered over the years, the vibrantly coloured shipping containers house 12 mini-studios, each accommodating a resident artist. The artists utilise their individual space as studio, display case and retail outlet. Large double glazed windows frame the side of each pod giving passers-by a view of the products within, but also excitingly of the artists at work. The invite is open for all to enter and communicate with the artists, not simply to purchase or commission, but to also learn and engage.

The bright colours of the pods coupled with the well-kept grid patterned gardens is cause enough to lift the spirits, yet it is at night that this urban art scene really comes alive, with each container lit throughout the hours of darkness in different hues, intimating that art never sleeps. This only furthers the sense of vitality that this low-cost sustainable project has brought to the area, with an increased sense of security and the successful delivery of the architects initial vision to create beacons within the community that draw people in and provide warmth.

Whilst each artist uses their space differently, some treating the glazed facade as a shop-front for example, others have truly embraced the modus operandi of Project24. One such artist is Bangor local Jo Hatty, who employs the glazing as a living canvas, drawing around those outside and encouraging others to add their own designs, providing active engagement with art and artist. The natural light afforded to each pod makes them an ideal studio environment, and the comfort (each has heating and running water) and general quality of materials and design suggests they will prove to be sustainable as they are reused in the future elsewhere.

Project24 is a brave and truly innovate attempt to tackle a problem site with limited finance in a difficult climate. It has succeeded in revitalising the area, increasing footfall and piquing interest. However its greatest success is in the long list of accomplishments that include providing local talent with a vehicle for exposure; creating a sense of community, not only for locals but also between the resident artists; providing a genuinely sustainable solution that can aid the revitalisation of other areas once it has completed its term in Bangor; and hinting towards the potential for future development on this key seafront site.

Whatever comes next for Queen’s Parade will have much to live up too, no mean feat for a development with such a diminutive financial outlay. Credit must go to those who envisaged and developed this idea, those who funded it, and to the architects who have, under the very tightest of budget constraints, served up a real seaside treat.