Farrell Centre, Newcastle, UK. Artist’s impression. Credit: SPACE / Newcastle University
Plans have been released for the Farrell Centre, a new on-campus multipurpose exhibition and events space dedicated to addressing the big questions facing architecture and urbanism in the coming decades. It will be named after Sir Terry Farrell, who studied at Newcastle in the fifties before embarking on a successful career as an architect and planner, and has worked on local projects including The Centre for Life, the Hancock Museum and Newcastle’s Quayside development.
The centre will house a gallery, exhibition and events space designed to flexibly accommodate a wide, interdisciplinary programme of events, exhibitions and discussions. The “new type of public institution” will also offer subsidised studio spaces for start-ups working in the built environment, on the building’s top floor, and will open at the start of the 22/23 academic year.
Owen Hopkins, who was appointed director of the Farrell Centre back in 2019, envisions a strong relationship between the university, its students and the Centre:
The centre also hopes to be a way to help retain graduating architecture students in Newcastle. Hopkins intends for the careers service to be linked to the studio space for start-ups available on the top floor of the Farrell Centre, and wants to use the space as a way to say “actually you can start a practice in Newcastle and there's plenty of work so that some of the opportunities that you'll get in a city of this size are far bigger than you might get in the City of London.”
The Farrell Centre focuses on the concept of the ‘Urban Room’, recommended by Terry Farrell in the 2014 Farrell Review as a space for a city's citizens to come and engage in debates about architecture and planning, and have a say in their city’s future. This will serve as a place for more democratic and accessible discussion around the big questions facing architecture, planning and cities in the coming decades. As Hopkins says:
These urban questions, which the Farrell Centre hopes to host activities to facilitate discussion about, include thinking about what cities should do with post-retail spaces.
Hopkins is also interested in the future of the central motorway, a very useful piece of city infrastructure, but also one which is widely considered by most urbanists as disastrous. This urban issue is something which, as he puts it, “the type of thing that afflicts many cities, across Britain and indeed across, certainly the US, and much of the Western world because this was a sort of playbook of urban renewal in the 1960s.”
This nods to another one of the centre’s aims, which is to encourage collaboration and connection between Newcastle and other cities, to help address urban issues on a wider, more impactful scale.