Stephen Thomas reports on educational ventures at the Bristol Architecture Centre
These are exciting times for Bristol and its docklands. A Pounds 100 million centre for the performing arts is to be built, as well as a zoo and a science centre.
It has been described as one of the great moments in Bristol's post-war history. More modest but still with its own interest is the recently- opened Bristol Architecture Centre, which joins well established attractions such as Brunel's ship Great Britain and the maritime museum.
The Architecture Centre, the only one of its kind outside London, was founded by the Bristol Centre for the Advancement of Architecture, a charity set up when the Bristol University School of Architecture closed in 1984. It is housed in an impressive 18th-century building on the waterfront, once a workshop for making sails. A magnificent renovation has created an exhibition space, conference rooms and a shop.
The centre is run by Sasha Lubetkin, daughter of Berthold Lubetkin, the architect of High Point flats in London and the penguin pool at London Zoo. She believes in enabling young people to improve the quality of their built environment and says that time should be found in the school curriculum to encourage this.
An education programme is being developed and it is hoped to appoint an education officer, but there are already many stimulating opportunities for students and teachers. The Four Stories exhibition, which runs until March 20, illustrates the process of design. It explores how four different architects have used models to develop buildings as varied as St Benno Gymnasium, a secondary school in Dresden, and a private house in a south London conservation area by Pawson Williams.
Working models and sketches are supplemented by a video in which the four architects give commentaries on their designs. Activities are provided for students who visit the exhibition.
The Architecture Centre embarked this term on a six-week project with five primary schools, called Homes for Heroes. Architects have volunteered to help teachers on projects in which the children plan a home for a hero, real or imagined, which will help develop a range of skills from artistic to presentational. New schools are invited to joint this project.
Sasha Lubetkin says that they would respond enthusiastically to requests for help from schools. Sixth-formers have spent a day working on alternative designs for the centre for the performing arts, working with architects, structural engineers, builders and quantity surveyors. They will help to arrange visits to schools by architects and put students who are considering careers in the built environment in touch with relevant professionals.
The Four Stories exhibition will be followed by Projects Under Pounds 150k from March 24 to May 8, a selection of small building projects. May 12 to June 26 will see Ecological Makeover, on the conservation of buildings, with an exhibition on the Art Nouveau architecture of Riga in Latvia, from August 18 to October 2.
The Architecture Centre, Narrow Quay, Bristol BS1 4QA. Tel: 0117 922 1540. Opening hours: October 1 to April 1: Tuesday to Friday, 11am to 5pm, Saturday and Sunday, noon to 5pm. April 2 to September 30: Tuesday to Friday 11am to 6pm, Saturday and Sunday, noon to 6pm. Free. School groups phone first