The Road

2017 - on going

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Hayatsu Architects have been working with Grizedale Arts on The Road project in Coniston, a community engagement and interpretation project which transforms the public realm of the Coniston Institute and John Ruskin Museum in the Lake District.

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In 1874, John Ruskin taught his Oxford University students the art of road-building to promote the notions of working for the greater good and satisfaction through labour. Those who took part in this project went on to become some of the most significant social reformers of the Victorian period, including Oscar Wilde. The Road remains half-finished to this day.

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The collaboration continues Ruskin’s endeavours, by creating new amenities to connect the community with the Institute and Museum and with the heritage landscape of the Coppermines valley beyond. As a new space for education, community cohesion and heritage, it marks the 200th anniversary of Ruskin’s birth and the 140th anniversary of Ruskin’s move to Coniston and his involvement with the village and the copper industry.

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Reaching back over four centuries, the Coniston Coppermines and Penny Rigg Mill sites spread across 57 hectares in the south west of the Lake District National Park, below The Old Man of Coniston. At its peak in the 19th century, the Coppermines Valley employed around 600 people in the extraction, preparation and transportation of copper ore.


The Heritage Lottery funding focuses on the conservation of over 150 items across ten different structures at the two sites. The project forms part of a larger archaeological restoration and interpretation project funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. This heritage project _ engages local people with the local history, as well as with the interpretation of the Coppermines. The project will be documented and shared for the benefit of the local community and visitors, in order to provide a new insight into the rich mining past of the South Lakes.

The Heritage Lottery Fund project and The Road are partnerships between the Lake District National Park, local land owners, the Ruskin Museum, YHA Coniston, Grizedale Arts, Central Saint Martins, UAL and Cumbria Amenity Trust Mining History Society.


Takeshi Hayatsu, founder of Hayatsu Architects, led a Unit 3 design studio for the cohort of MArch year 1 – 27 students - with Spatial Practices staff, Gregory Ross and Carlotta Novella from Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London (UAL).  They collaborated on the design and fabrication of two timber structures – an information kiosk and a community bread oven.  A workshop was set up over the summer at Central Saint Martins to carry out the build ready for planning approval.  The aim was to install the structures at the Ruskin Museum and the Coniston Institute in October 2017.


The information kiosk tells the story of the copper mines and is situated in front of the Ruskin Museum, whilst the community bread oven is used by local people for events at the Coniston Institute. These contemporary structures pay tribute to their context with a cladding of handcrafted copper shingles and charred timber roofing made in collaboration with local community groups.


In the spirit of collective making and the meaning of place and material, The Road brings together local people alongside established craftsmen and historians as well as MArch Architecture students from Central Saint Martins to create these structures and, hopefully, a lasting sense of co-ownership.


The project’s ambition is for small manufacturing and making to take place directly on site and bring production back to the place and its inhabitants once again. These elements together will form a pedestrian route and make external social use on the doorstep of the Museum and Institute possible, bringing existing activities and events outside.


The Road project will continue in 2019, with further participatory building projects and events. The kiosk and oven are the first elements, announcing the intention to turn the Museum and Institute outwards through the transformation of the road into public realm amenity space. This new public thoroughfare will serve to connect Coniston village to the Coppermines walking route through a series of interventions including the resurfacing of the road in handmade tiles and pedestrian elements such as signage, lighting and furniture.

installation at RIBA 2019 recreating the Road brick surface, photo by Edmund Sumner

installation at RIBA 2019 recreating the Road brick surface, photo by Edmund Sumner

These interventions form the major part of a series of projects which all share the aim of pursueing John Ruskin’s legacy to bring making back to its users. It was not only featured at Hauser & Wirth in Somerset, but also in the exhibition “Making it Happen: New Community Architecture” at the RIBA in London as one of four projects showcasing the current spirit of community-led civic spaces in the UK.


The larch timber was generously donated by the Scottish sawmill and timber distributor James Jones & Sons from their sustainably harvested forests in Scotland.


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