High speed workshops


Students from across the School of Architecture and Design recently had the opportunity to take part in a SuperStudio session with HS2 Limited, the company responsible for developing the UK’s new high speed rail network. Steve Fancourt, Rural Landscape Manager for HS2 Ltd, and Halah Lloyd, Lead Architect, gave students an exclusive first-hand insight into the design vision and challenges for the project.

HS2 is a major infrastructure project aiming to connect the country’s major cities and economic hubs. Poised to be the new backbone of the national rail network, the project will link 25 different cities and towns together, including London, Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds and York. It is already proving to be an exciting addition to the city, as not only are the HS2 headquarters based in Birmingham, but the site is on the doorstep of Birmingham City University’s City Centre campus.

It is this close proximity to the epicentre of the project that gave students the unique opportunity to view the HS2 site, as well as receive one of the first official public talks delivered to an academic institution. Steve Fancourt reflected that the presentation was intended to give students an appreciation of the design vision of HS2 Ltd. The vision is based around the three interwoven themes of: People, Place & Time. For landscape architects, architects and built environment professions alike, these themes are invariably key considerations applicable to many built environment design challenges.

Speaking afterwards, Steve added:

Alongside the site viewing and lecture, students took part in an interactive workshop as part of the SuperStudio session. SuperStudio is shared across disciplines within the School of Architecture and Design and works in conjunction with students’ studies, offering a plethora of activities to enhance their skills in drawing, model making, digital software and more. It is hosted every Wednesday and also gives students regular opportunities to interact with industry professionals, and hear from key speakers and visiting companies such as HS2 Ltd.

During the interactive workshop segment of the day, students were put into groups to explore a design challenge from the perspective of one of the HS2 personas. Each group took the initiative of paying a site visit to their allotted public space – one of five planned by HS2 Ltd around Curzon Street Station. Having stepped into the shoes of their persona as part of the conceptual design process, the teams arrived at some truly original responses through imagining what design features would benefit that traveller’s journey in the year 2033.

At the end of the session students were given the opportunity to question Steve and Hana about the project, who both remarked how perceptive the questions were; particularly one about how HS2 intend to coordinate design to optimise the potential view of the landscape from a train travelling up to 360km/h.

Following the SuperStudio session Steve commented on the possibility of students meeting with members of the HS2 team:  

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