New skywalk vision for The Rec unveiled by city pressure group

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  1. Getofmeland

    Getofmeland The Dorset Drinker

    Jan 27, 2004
    Bournemouth, England
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    An eye-catching vision of what a new 20,000-capacity stadium at The Rec might look like has been unveiled by an influential group of rugby fans.

    The Real Friends of The Rec pressure group has teamed up with a postgraduate architecture student to produce a design aimed at stimulating debate over what might be possible if Bath Rugby decides to develop a new arena at its historic home.

    Architecture and engineering experts in Bath helped 28-year-old Jonathan Crossley to finetune his vision, which incorporates a dramatic rooftop walk and aims to open up new views of the city.

    The images have been seen by the rugby club’s new owner Bruce Craig and its chief executive Nick Blofeld as well as by senior politicians, business leaders, residents’ groups and other sporting bodies.

    The 4,700-strong Real Friends group wants the rugby club to stay at The Rec, and to develop a stadium which could be used for a variety of other sports.

    The club is currently weighing up whether The Rec or two sites at opposite ends of the Western Riverside offer the best potential for the 21st century playing facilities it so badly needs.

    Real Friends chairman Peter Downey said any new stadium should offer a “21st century heritage†legacy and said Mr Crossley’s rooftop - dubbed The Rec Skyline Walk - would become a “must-do experience†for visitors.

    “The skywalk scheme will, we hope, get everyone talking about the possibilities that imaginative, world-class architecture can open up.

    “No one has seriously disputed that having Bath Rugby in the centre of Bath brings enormous economic benefits to the area. The absolute genius of this concept is that it creates an iconic visitor experience, that is quite separate from the rugby, attracting more visitors and opening up new views of the city and the surrounding hills.

    “The Rec Skyline Walk could become a must-do experience to set alongside the Thermae rooftop pool, and the Roman Baths. I doubt anyone would want to leave Bath without walking along this 21st century parade.â€

    University of Bath student Mr Crossley’s concept has been tested and mentored by Bath-based firms DKA Architects and Buro Happold, the engineering consultancy behind buildings such as the O2 arena and Arsenal’s Emirates ground

    Mr Downey said the reaction to the images had been very positive.

    “There’s a great will to keep Bath Rugby at the Rec, and these plans were conceived as part of that effort. We hope that this imaginative concept and all that it envisages continues to act as a catalyst in securing a future for the Rec.

    “We have always seen our responsibility as being supportive to Bath Rugby, while exploring every avenue through which the city can benefit from their continued presence on the Rec. We hope the skywalk scheme will get everyone talking about the possibilities that imaginative, world-class architecture can open up.â€

    The new rooftop walk would sweep upwards from a new access onto Johnstone Street, while shops and cafes could be integrated into the riverside edge of the stadium. Lifts would allow disabled access to the roof.

    The three-sided design allows for seasonal changes on one side, allowing different uses of The Rec throughout the year.

    Mr Crossley said: “The problem over the use of Rec is one of devaluation in that whatever you might seek to implement, you are deemed to be taking away from the rest of the Rec. Given that the underlying principles of the Rec are that any commercial use of it does not seek to undermine or devalue the continued recreational use of the Rec by the people of Bath, a solution was sought that allowed for both the Rugby and the Rec to prosper.

    “As such the overarching gesture of the building is to establish an extruded landscape that facilitates the continued use of the Rec for Rugby yet also offers back a new promenade to the city.â€

    He has been careful to ensure sightlines of Bath Abbey are preserved from around the city while working on his five-month project.

    Mr Downey said the student from Burnley’s vision “blew him away†when he first saw it.

    Mr Blofeld welcomed the Real Friends group’s move.

    “We think it is a great initiative and very creative, and it is going to take a creative solution such as this to find the right home for the club and keep us in the heart of the city long term.

    “Jonathan’s work, supported by experienced architects and engineers, progresses the thinking for what might be achievable at The Rec, and may well spark other even better ideas.

    “The club continues to work hard on determining where we believe the best site would be and also explore design ideas that would work best for both the club and the city. It is a complex challenge as we all know, but I really think we are making progress with great support from the council and local community.

    “Being under new ownership has also provided a fresh perspective and even more determination to solve the problem as soon as we can.â€

    Deputy leader of Bath and North East Somerset Council Councillor Malcolm Hanney said the authority welcomed the “enthusiasm, imagination and obvious potential†shown by Mr Crossley.

    But he added: “While Bath Rugby are in the process of determining their preferred approach (including possible locations for a new stadium) we do not believe it is appropriate to comment on specific proposals that may be put forward by other parties.

    “We continue to do everything we can to work closely with Bath Rugby to help them achieve their ambitious plans for the club.â€

    Bath Preservation Trust chief executive Caroline Kay has seen the vision and its architecture and planning committee will be getting a fuller briefing next week.

    She said: “Only at that briefing will we get a full understanding of how the design solution is derived from the context, and whether or not important vistas are retained. These plans are of course a completely kite-flying exercise, since the future location of the rugby club is not determined and this design is not put forward by them.

    “However, as a vehicle for provoking debate about what is or is not achievable on The Rec, I am sure it will manage to do so, not merely in terms of the rugby club but also in terms of the place that highly engineered contemporary design might or might not have in Bath.

    “This is a worthwhile debate though I cannot at this point prejudge the answers.â€

    B&NES Council opposition leader Councillor Paul Crossley said the Real Friends vision was a "fabulous concept".

    "The issue now is to see if the rugby club wants to make it work."

    The Vision - (10MB)
    The Full Proposal - _the Rec_J_Crossley.pdf (60MB)
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