What is the concept of an 'Urban Room' and what could it mean for Reading? Since Reading's Economic Forum back in 2018, this is something that Reading UK's Executive Director, Nigel Horton-Baker, and University of Reading Professor, Lorraine Farrelly, have championed. A concept created by Sir Terry Farrell, an urban room creates physical space for those that live, visit and work in the town to visit to hear about plans and developments. As Reading's new Urban Room opens later this month, Nigel Horton-Baker asks what it means for our town and its communities.
Put simply, Urban Rooms are spaces in towns and cities which offer local communities a place to exhibit and discuss issues that affect the community around future development. With so much physical development going on in Reading, despite COVID and the economic recession, and with a whole host of plans and new ideas to regenerate the town centre coming forward to deliver the Reading 2050 City Vision and 2030 Climate Change Strategy, what better time to open our first Urban Room? It is chance to take the people of Reading on the journey with us, engaging everyone in new ideas, plans and discussions, using their ideas and insights and making us all proud to be a part of the future city Reading will become.
Sir Terry Farrell, now 83, has long crusaded to make it easier for people to have more of a say in the futures of their cities. To that end, his government-commissioned Farrell review of architecture and the built environment, published in 2014, advocated the idea of “urban rooms”, places on the high street where people could go to view and discuss the latest development proposals.
We unfortunately don’t have the benefit of Sir Terry in Reading, as he is busy putting his energy, funding and archive material into a new Urban Room in Newcastle, converting an old department store to look at the future of the Tyneside city. However, the 'tented' Urban Room set up at the University by Professor Lorraine Farrelly and our University of Reading colleagues pre-Covid has caught the attention of Moorgarth, owners of Broad Street Mall. An empty shop unit has been provided to undertake a month long pop-up Urban Room in the heart of Reading, with a range of public events planned to test the feasibility and appetite of a more permanent Urban Room in Reading.
The Reading Urban Room in Broad Street Mall will communicate information to the local community about key issues such as the Reading Town Centre Strategy, offering a place for discussion to encourage awareness and connection between Reading's diverse communities. The activities in the Urban Room are based around a the weekly topic determined by our analysis of the Quality of Life Framework and the emerging Reading Town Centre Strategy.
March 2022 will host a number of list of events at the Urban Room to test the concept, raise interest in the idea and be a basis for raising funds to make it a permanent feature in Reading.
If you have any comments or thoughts about the setting up of an Urban Room in Reading please contact Nigel at Nigel@livingreading.co.uk