It Will Never Work: 25 Years of Urban Splash 1993 – 2018
Award winning Manchester-based regeneration company Urban Splash, which was founded in Liverpool in 1993 has launched a new exhibition ‘It Will Never Work’.
The exhibition, which has been curated collaboratively by RIBA North and Urban Splash, is being shown at RIBA North, RIBA’s National Architecture Centre, to mark the developer’s 25th anniversary. It chronicles the accolades awarded to Urban Splash developments, from small projects to the RIBA Stirling Prize shortlist as well as the company’s maverick presence on the development landscape. The exhibition celebrates the Urban Splash successes and takes you on an interesting journey through the last 25 years, telling the story of its history in five bitesize chapters.
Ahead of the exhibition's opening, I was given an insightful private tour by Mark Latham, the Regeneration Director of Urban Splash. I was really intrigued to find out why they named the exhibition 'It will never work' and Mark begins the tour by explaining...
One of the regular things that everybody said to us right from the very first project is "It'll never work" or "Why would anybody want to live there?" or "Nobody's going to want to buy space in that building". In a way, that has continued throughout our history, right up to where we are now.
Mark weaved me around the five tables that showcase the significant Urban Splash projects and talked me through each chapter; from loft living in Northern cities – like Liverpool in the early nineties – through boom and bust, to the reinvented modular House and future neighbourhood projects in progress today.
It was so interesting to find out how Urban Splash developed a reputation of taking on the projects that no-one else would touch and investing in run-down areas that no other developers had the guts to tackle. They kick-started city centre regeneration in Liverpool at a time when cities were seen as scary and bad places in the early 90's. Nobody lived there and nobody wanted to live there. Urban Splash admit to purposefully ignoring advice and routinely rejecting accepted development processes but Mark justifies this risk-taking approach and explains...
We take on projects that others think are risky, but we're always thinking 'well if we don't take risks, as a business that's proud of innovating, then that in itself is a risk'.
It's clear they like to do things differently but one theme that runs throughout their work is their focus on quality and the passion of bringing old buildings back to life. It's inspiring to learn how two incredibly driven and passionate people have developed their business to create so many unique spaces that continue to push the boundaries in design and the way we live and work.
We can all take a huge lesson from Urban Splash which is to never give up on our ideas and goals even when people say "It'll never work". If we forever continue to design, create and make the things that have all been done before, how will we ever adapt and address the problems of today?
I'd highly recommend visiting this exhibition if you are interested in art, design, marketing, architecture, property or thinking of starting your own business. It's a thought provoking and inspiring exhibition that teaches you not to listen to the doubters!
The exhibition will run for three months before going on tour in the UK with dates and locations to be confirmed.
Exhibition: 31 March – 16 June 2018
RIBA North – National Architecture Centre, Mann Island, Liverpool Waterfront