Year l 2019
Location l Wyre Forest, Worcestershire, UK
Clients l The Guild of St George & Wyre Community Land Trust
The Future Forests live project presents a future vision for Ruskin Land, a 100 acre woodland within the Wyre Forest, owned by the Guild of St George and managed by the Wyre Community Land Trust (WCLT). John Ruskin founded the Guild in 1871 and established Ruskin Land as a place to realise his utopian vision of improving lives through the arts, crafts and rural economy. However, the forest became neglected following the World Wars, resulting in an overgrown oak woodland, poor in terms of biodiversity and timber quality. The Guild and WCLT are in the process of bringing the forest back to life with the intention of creating a thriving woodland hub that embodies Ruskin’s ideals.
Our team visited the forest twice to build an understanding of its current state and activities through orientation walks as well as conversation with volunteers and employees working onsite. Development of the brief was progressed through further research, regular dialogue with our clients and meeting stakeholders such as Ruskin in Sheffield. The resultant future vision imagines how the woodland and its facilities could be enhanced to become a greater community resource and valuable national asset, demonstrating sustainable, carbon neutral construction approaches that showcase innovative use of onsite timber. At a wider scale, the vision also suggests ways of strengthening the connection between Ruskin’s legacy in Sheffield and the Wyre.
To encapsulate the vision a masterplan document, construction booklet and summary video were produced. The masterplan sets out phasing of much-needed facilities on Ruskin Land, including improved workshop facilities to boost craft activities onsite and an accommodation building with flexible education space to increase outreach potential. Beyond just building proposals, the documents crucially identify different pathways towards their construction depending on funding and labour availability, each offering differing levels of participatory build opportunities with different implications on both process and finished building. In addition to being used to attract funding, the documents will serve as constant guides for the clients, helping them strategise and choose the most appropriate construction solution according to their situation.
Future Forests demonstrates the client’s vision of getting more people into Ruskin Land, working with their hands, learning new skills with others to produce things that are useful and beautiful in a thriving, biodiverse woodland setting. Ruskin Land may therefore serve as a precedent for sustainable woodland management and a prosperous rural economy for all future forests.