Beverley Nielsen

Beverley Nielsen

Beverley Nielsen outlines notes on a compelling vision for Birmingham and the region presented by Professor Kathryn Moore at the Birmingham Made Me Design Expo.

Having lived here for 18 years I have heard quite a few lectures. But Professor Kathryn Moore, speaking on ‘Transport and Living Futures’ delivered one which was, for me, in a different league.

It was visually inspirational showing Birmingham in a new light as an ecologically friendly city – ‘open, green and connected to the outlying areas through its unique and beautiful natural features’.

Her vision for Birmingham, as a great capital city for the region, was to redefine both the Tame and Blythe valleys into zero carbon valleys and centres for eco-tourism, in turn regenerating the city as sitting at the heart of places where people could learn about ecology.

She had travelled the length of the HS2 route, with a focus on the Tame and Blythe Valleys, to examine the geographical, physical, social and cultural features, looking into the current communities, understanding their present quality of life, their connectivity to surrounding towns and cities and bringing these together within visual representations.

City edge, by Kathryn Moore

City edge, by Kathryn Moore

To understand the meaning of HS2 we need to understand the history of the places it will go through, she stated. We need to deal holistically with our daily rural and urban cycles, making connections between governance, health and economy.

By doing this it would be possible to reinvent our identity. “Instead of sewage treatment plants, we could have lakes and sailing at the margins of our city. On entering Birmingham it all looks visually quite grey. What about making a feature of its elevated position by placing wind turbines along the motorways announcing arrival at a great city in the form of new city walls. What about developing skills for agriculture and horticulture among young people in our City and Valleys? What about a University for Green Industries in the Tame Valley?”

Professor Moore claimed we have been ‘Overlooking the Visual’ in our pursuit of economic goals. That too often we have pursued singular objectives rather than holistic ones. That our vision of the future was set within narrow margins – economic, infrastructure, housing and ‘singular engineering goals’, rather than a broader vision about aspirational quality of life and a ‘sense of pride in where we live and work’.

“We have forgotten to look where the city lies geographically. We should be more careful about the land. We should take inspiration from places like Norway where they have created a tourist route of belvederes and viewing points by including opportunities to take in spectacular views along route and create vantage points to view HS2 which are built into the infrastructure. In Norway any new infrastructure development is built so that it does not detract from the landscape but adds to it.”

“Through the UNESCO and other United Nations agencies there is a new vision of landscapes, shifting the focus to the relationship people have with their landscape. It’s an approach to development and change that might help us to deal with global challenges. As Constable said it’s about, ‘Understanding landscape is a child of history.’ How we can use HS2 to create that?” Professor Moore concluded.

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Beverley Nielsen

Beverley Nielsen

Director of Corporate Affairs at Birmingham City University
Beverley Nielsen

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