WHAT could St Helier look like if its traditional architecture were used to inspire a quite different vision for our future?
That question has been posed and answered by architect Nick Socrates, using the latest technology to reimagine what parts of town might look like if we were to think more creatively of the buildings and public spaces they contain.
Forget those drawings that rely on standardised images that could have come from any urban environment in the UK, and imagine instead something that might raise the spirits, Mr Socrates explained.
‘Our focus has been on creating public spaces and buildings that are innovative while remaining sympathetic to the unique character of the town, ensuring that they are both functional and aesthetically pleasing, and will enhance the experience of living and working in St Helier,’ he said.
To make his latest images, Mr Socrates has used as his blank canvas parts of the Waterfront but he explained that he might have taken any other part of town and adopted the same approach. In the past, for example, he has recreated Snow Hill and on another occasion he imagined an arts complex on the site of the Steam Clock.
Aiming to ‘push the boundaries of what is possible in terms of innovative design’, his approach has been limited only by a desire to remain ‘sympathetic to the character of the town’.
How does he sum up the results?
‘The styles embrace the traditional but they are not completely traditional,’ he said. ‘They are merged with modern technologies – with larger windows, for example. There is a language with arches, stonework, creative roof-forms and also the proportions and the use of natural materials. It’s a combination of all of these things which bring it back to the traditional but with a modern twist. It’s not completely new but it’s got that traditional language that’s unique to Jersey,’ he explained.
Mr Socrates studied urban design in Barcelona, a city which provided the inspiration to ponder why innovative features like bridges spanning carriageways, attractive public spaces and some of its other signature elements could not be used elsewhere to inform his approach to design.
Looking at his latest visuals, some have commented on how French they look. Mr Socrates is unapologetic.
‘St Helier is French and when you get to St Malo you see the Jersey style but it’s more elaborate and on a larger scale,’ he said. ‘Do you want to look like St Malo, or do you want to look like Reading or Milton Keynes?’