Bristol Opening Doors

3 04 2013

Bristol Doors Open Day only happens once a year, but from today a new website allows visitors to explore some of Bristol’s best buildings all year round. Bristol Opening Doors is now live, and is accompanied by an exhibition which opens today at the Architecture Centre.

Buildings that can be explored include  the Wills Memorial Building (below), 29 Queen Square, Bristol Old Vic, All Saints Church, The Exchange, Old Council House, Horizon House, Colston’s Almshouses, Bristol Heart Institute and St James’ Priory.

Wills Memorial Building ceiling - photo by Frances Gard

Castle Park exhibition

26 02 2010

Bristol’s Lost Quarter is an exhibition currently on display at the Architecture Centre on Narrow Quay which proposes to reshape Castle Park while retaining its green space. It has been put together by final year architecture masters students at UWE, but catch it quick because it ends on Sunday.

Castle Park is a hotly-contested place that used to be the social and commercial heart of Bristol, housing places of worship, a school, cinema, pubs, hospital, social clubs, specialist shops and private homes. But then it got obliterated by German bombers and now there is little to remind us of its past except for the shell of St Peter’s Church (left).

One of the most fascinating parts of the exhibition for me was to see old maps of the area, once one of the four corners of the medieval city. There are long-gone streets (Dolphin Street, Peter Street, Castle Mill Street), lists of long-gone businesses (tailors, tobacconists, hosiers, milliners, watch parts) and photographs of this once bustling area.

The students’ theoretical proposals are quite wacky at times but underlying them there is a serious question, what to do with this large unplanned space in the centre of the city.

For most people, me included, Castle Park is a place to go through, not to go to, apart from when the sun is out when it acts like a magnet for city centre workers.

There are some areas of the park well-off the beaten track that do not have glowing reputations. A vagrant was once found living in the children’s playground, and there have been several recent assaults and muggings. It is not a safe place to go after dark.

But I have also been to some great events happening there, like food festivals, Sustrans’ 30th birthday party and a gun salute. When events like those do happen, Castle Park can be a lively and much-loved place and that is what the students were setting out to create in their proposals, while also igniting interest in this often-overlooked part of Bristol.

For more details of the Bristol’s Lost Quarter exhibition, click here.