A group of architecture students from the University of the West of England have used Lower Shaw Farm in West Swindon as a way of applying their ideas to a real world setting.
They were given the task of considering how the Big Shed could be refurbished or even rebuilt. Formerly a milking parlour for 70 dairy cattle when the farm was a feature of the quiet countryside to the west of Swindon, these days it is used for arts and crafts, circus skills workshops, singing, talks, and a wide variety of other activities.
Lower Shaw Farm trustee Matt Holland said the main requirement was to retain a good amount of space, and not to lose the character or atmosphere of the farm. “We wanted to get the students involved when we found out that at this time of year they are looking for ‘live projects’ to get their teeth into. It’s always fascinating to hear the responses of young people, and to learn what they see are the possibilities for a space such as this.”
The students worked to a specific brief provided by residents and users of Lower Shaw Farm, and within a fortnight had worked up their ideas, including detailed drawings, scaled cardboard models and a demonstration of the building materials using cardboard and even bread.
They presented three concepts: renovation, modification or regeneration, ranging from retaining the existing shed to completely repositioning the out-buildings to create a more spacious farm yard.
All the ideas included sustainable energy solutions and recycled building materials, as well as rainwater harvesting. The regeneration idea included a ground source heat pump and system of reed beds for sewage.
The brief also stipulated a degree of self-build, so that members of the community and farm users can get involved with transforming the space and learning more about sustainable construction techniques.
Farm trustee and worker Andrea Hirsch said, “the ideas are very inspiring. The presentations really opened up our thinking about the site.”
Stephen Hill, a third year architecture student from Devon, said, “it’s been great to get real-world feedback on our work – and for it to be a project with real possibilities rather than one our lecturer has invented.”
“This is both exciting and timely” added Matt. “We are deep into positive and promising talks with Swindon Council about securing a long-term future for the farm. Young people will be part of that future; it’s brilliant that they are keen to help shape it.”
Pictured, top: Matt Holland, rear right, with UWE students. Front, Alice Suttie, Erini Kyriahou. Standing, Rob Killick, Stephen Hill, course tutor Rachel Sara
Below: some of the designs and proposals put forward by the students