Cultural Strategy, Former Wisley Airfield

The Former Wisley Airfield is a large-scale site in Ockham, within a group of historic rural hamlets. As part of a completely revised scheme for 1,730 homes, schools, healthcare facilities, sports, shops and other community infrastructure, the Cultural Strategy seeks to help the three proposed new neighbourhoods integrate and enrich the new and existing communities of residents. This will be achieved through cultural and creative initiatives designed to strengthen community cohesion, maximise the landscape setting and reflect local heritage.

The development incorporates large areas of open green space around three new neighbourhoods

The vision for culture in these new neighbourhoods is to integrate creative projects and approaches which help people to connect to each other and to the rich local landscape, so as to nurture the cultural wellbeing of a growing community. The strategy sets out the role of culture and creativity in community cohesion and helping to integrate an elusive ‘sense of place’.

There is a fast-growing body of evidence that creativity and the arts and feeling connected to the local area and to a community, positively impacts our health and wellbeing. This cultural strategy forms part of a wider sustainability approach at the Former Wisley Airfield. We see flexible social infrastructure and public art playing a key role in the development of distinctive places, that engage closely with local communities and respond to local context.

The site as it is today
Historical map of the airfield

As a former airfield, and test runway for the nearby Vickers factory, much of the site’s aviation and engineering heritage is documented, including at the nearby Brooklands Museum. Research shows that Ockham and Wisley have a history of pioneering outward-looking individuals with a strong social conscience such as Ada Lovelace. Stories of these local pioneers, including William and Ellen Craft who in the late 1800s escaped from slavery in America, provide a strong legacy to reflect through cultural projects.

Our thinking has been influenced by the history of local innovation, excellence and pioneering people.

In addition, the experimental garden at Oakwood and the many historic parks and gardens in Surrey create a rich cultural heritage to draw on and make visible through the landscape, providing the opportunity to continue Surrey’s tradition of outdoor arts. We explored initial steps towards key partnerships to be explored further if planning is approved.

“David and Susie at Dallas-Pierce-Quintero are integral members of the Former Wisley Airfield team and it’s a pleasure to work with them. Their flexible support has shaped our approach to culture, heritage, place identity and place naming for this new large strategic settlement. D-P-Q has worked closely and collaboratively throughout resulting in an integrated vision for culture as a key community objective supporting identity, cohesion and wellbeing.”

Antonis Pazourou, Project Director, Taylor Wimpey

Alongside research into the evolving masterplan, we interrogated the local place-naming hierarchy, identifying key language and focal points. We held a roundtable workshop bringing together an academic and an artist with local representatives, to consider a place naming approach that was reflective of the local context. This resulted in a set of name proposals to be revisited if planning is approved and with which to engage more widely. The local community representatives supported the aim to ensure naming is relevant and in keeping with local geography.

The strategy sets out three over-arching thematic focus areas which will be developed into detailed cultural plans as each phase of development progresses.

The Cultural Strategy is structured around three key focus areas.

Cultural Landscape will celebrate new access to reinstated landscaping including a new country park. Exciting horticultural partnership projects can involve the community, share and extend skills and knowledge about plants and sustainability, and incorporate new wayfinding trails.

Creative+Places+Spaces identifies opportunities to uplift the social infrastructure at the scheme, both indoor and outdoor, to enable creative activities to thrive.

Culture Everyday sets out how and where permanent and temporary artists projects can enhance the scheme, adding distinctive character and reflecting the local context and heritage and involving the community. A key opportunity is to reflect or reuse the Ockham Beacon structure which is in process of being decommissioned from aviation use.

“D-P-Q’s work with key strategic stakeholders and the local community has achieved a Cultural Strategy for the Former Wisley Airfield that will bring positive results in a sometimes-challenging context with delivering a new place. They have helped us to understand the potential of culture in place-shaping and we look forward to working with them on cultural strategy delivery, subject to planning.”

Antonis Pazourou, Project Director, Taylor Wimpey

We were commissioned by Taylor Wimpey Strategic Land. Following a research phase, we developed key themes and tested these with the client as well as liaising closely with the masterplanners, landscape architect and stakeholders including local residents and representatives of local organisations.

If the application is approved, a full Cultural Strategy will detail specific projects in full through a delivery plan for each development phase. The Cultural Strategy at this outline phase includes commission guidance and plots potential projects within the masterplan.

Guildford, Surrey 2020-2021

Client: Taylor Wimpey Strategic Land

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