A packed audience of almost a hundred people enjoyed Gareth Jones and Nils Norman’s City Club presentation here on 10 December, and now we’re pleased to be able to share it with you via this LINK.
Gareth and Nils have spent recent months brainstorming options for developing a sequence of public spaces between Milton Keynes Theatre, MK Gallery, Campbell Park and Midsummer Boulevard – including ideas for landscaping, enhanced signage and a new ‘playscape’ – that would create a dynamic, welcoming environment to be enjoyed, used and animated by visitors and residents alike.
In their presentation, Gareth and Nils referenced the Milton Keynes Development Corporation’s unrealised plans for a national leisure complex in the 1970s and how it had inspired their thinking, research and ideas. Imagery alternated between a mix of Milton Keynes Development Corporation archival materials, cultural images typifying decades from the 1960s to the present, and Gareth and Nils’ sketches and models. The audience enjoyed slides ranging from a photo of an MK playground designed by Archigram (sadly demolished), to the cover of a David Bowie album, a Biba design for a baked bean can, and the extraordinary exterior of the Guggenheim museum in Bilbao.
Gareth and Nils shared different ways that MK has responded to the last six decades, touched on the influence of modernism and post-modernism on the public realm, and how they’ve developed their own “what if…” series of sketches, models and drawings for a series of spaces that everyone can enjoy.
The artists referred to their respect for the Central Milton Keynes grid plan, and the original city infrastructure, including key elements of paving, porte cocheres, distinctive benches, and globed street lamps. They flagged that many of these features are missing in the Theatre District and said they’d love to reintroduce some of them, suitably developed for the 21st century. Through their City Club proposal they wish to offer people an exciting “index of possibilities” or conceptual framework to reanimate and bring back to life the original utopian vision for Milton Keynes.
The evening finished with an enthusiastic Q&A session, including participation from some of our arts and heritage community and local councillors. Gareth and Nils confirmed that, should funding become available, the City Club would enter an extensive period of consultation with groups and individuals, and start to address some of the scheme’s specifics and practicalities.
For a flavour of the presentation, we share this short slide show, which includes views of the talk and of the research sketches and models that the artists displayed for the audience in the next room. And finally, there is a happy picture of the Deputy Mayor of Milton Keynes, Cllr Stephen Coventry and the Deputy Mayoress Leanne Lacy, who’d just been saying how much that they’d enjoyed the talk and how they looked forward to keeping up with the City Club’s progress.
Gareth Jones and Nils Norman have received support from the National Lottery through Arts Council England.