Sewell Group has invested millions in Hull bringing art into its new public buildings – putting culture at the heart of people’s everyday lives.
Anybody who watches Grand Designs will know that architecture is about more than bricks and mortar. Good architecture, when it’s done well, is about people, Kevin McCloud would say.
Brilliant architecture, then, reflects the people who use it and – as well as carrying out the basics of providing warmth and shelter – also improves the quality of lives.
That’s the mantra of Hull-based estates services company Sewell Group, which has been committed to combining art and culture with its massive programme of rebuilding Hull’s infrastructure of schools and health centres in recent years.
Not content with just creating functional buildings, Sewell and its public sector partners have invested huge sums of money, resource and commitment, totailor each building to its local area, engaging communities and artists in the design of each before a single spade has broken the ground.
Paul Sewell, managing director of Sewell Group, says: “It’s hugely important to us that local people feel ownership, pride and passion towards the buildings we build.
“Each building is unique and relevant to the community in which they’re based. As a local company, employing 350 local people and working with a local supply chain, we’re all passionate about bringing the communities along with the process – we’re delivering these buildings on our own doorsteps.
“We want our buildings to be the best they can – not only because we know that it helps improve health and well-being but also because we’re part of the community too. We use these schools and health centres the same as everyone else.”
Among the buildings that Sewell has delivered in Hull in recent years are the visually stunning Thomas Ferens Academy, which specialises in science, Malet Lambert School, east Hull, and Endike Primary School, in north Hull. All of these were built as part of the city’s £400m Building Schools for the Future Programme .
Art and design is woven into the fabric of each of these spaces – improving lives through environment and architecture.
Thomas Ferens, for example, responds to Hull’s five sister cities, with each educational wing reaching out in the direction of its respective twin, with a “One World” space at the heart of the building.
The external landscaping reflects the schools’ commitments to environment and sustainability, with science and edible gardens, a green roof and a ‘winter garden’ dining space. In a nod to the belief that education should be as much about personal growth as book learning, the facility also includes a theatre space, drama and dance studios and sports hall.
As part of Hull Citycare Ltd, one of the most successful public private partnerships in the country, Sewell Group’s new health centres possess an equal dedication to representing their local areas through art.
Newington Health Centre, which replaced the Plane Street Methodist Church, underwent a huge amount of public consultation before pen was put to architect’s paper.
Here, the centre follows the footprint of the Church, with an impressive circular glazed tower echoing the design of the former building, also benefits from other items that have been artistically re-worked during local art projects, for example, the stained glass was made into square shaped glass works designed by local school children, which now sit within portholes screening the waiting area.
At Wilberforce Health Centre, visitors can much more than just pop in for a check-up. This centre hosts a sound-based artwork holding a collection of recorded stories, anecdotes and histories created by the artist through workshops with residents of Hull.
The sound is heard by resting your elbows onto two speaker pads mounted inside a specially designed table and placing your fingers in, or near, your ears. The table then randomly selects one of forty short recordings – providing an infinitely more interesting way of waiting for your appointment than simply flicking through an old Reader’s Digest.
Finally, at Elliott Chappell Health Centre, named after two local men who were at the heart of the community during the trawler and fishing years, the centre provides residents of West Hull with easy access to health and community facilities, in a setting that tells the story of Hessle Road.
On arrival, visitors will see an 1888 map of the area, so they can trace where their ancestors once lived. The main stairwell is decorated with colourful wall art that captures the 1911 census information. The area’s heritage is also incorporated into the window manifestations and display cabinets dotted around the facility.