George Clarke returns to Washington to launch design challenge as part of town's 60th birthday celebrations
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Architect and TV presenter George Clarke returned to his hometown of Washington to launch the New Town’s 60th anniversary celebrations with an exciting design competition for local children.
George, whose TV shows include George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces and The Restoration Man, grew up in Blackfell and was a pupil at what's now Oxclose Academy.
To launch the design competition, George was at The Galleries to meet pupils from Washington Academy, Biddick Academy, Oxclose Academy and St Robert of Newminster Catholic School and Sixth Form College.
He said: “It’s always great to be back home. I love Washington; it’s where I grew up and was a fantastic place to live.
“As a child The Galleries was my playground. To be here today with so many young passionate people who want to be part of this design challenge is brilliant.”
Designated a New Town on July 24, 1964, Washington was hailed at the time for its innovative and forward-thinking residential designs for homes.
George added: “Washington was such an innovative place when it was built back in the 1960s.
“We actually had some of the greatest thinkers involved in the design of the New Town. From master planners, landscape designers, all the way through to building schools and villages and most importantly, beautiful houses.
“I grew up in Blackfell. My mam is still there and her house is still fantastic. It might be nearly 60 years old but for me it was a really innovative design.”
The challenge is being run by George’s charity, MOBIE (Ministry of Building Innovation and Education) which provides training and education to “inspire young people to play a major role in shaping the future of our homes and communities”.
In keeping with this ethos and to celebrate the creation of Washington New Town, youngsters have been given a design brief to create "a 21st century super sustainable ‘courtyard’ style housing scheme”.
The design should incorporate contemporary features and embrace sustainability, but, in keeping with the original New Town’s brief, should "cater for all ages designed around a pedestrianised courtyard square".
George said: “Home is the most important piece of architecture in our lives. It crafts the way we live, and how we grow as families and communities.
"I have believed this to be so true and important for as long as I can remember, and in many ways was inspired by my family home and upbringing in the Washington village of Blackfell and the amazing community that we enjoyed there.
“I set up MOBIE six years ago to inspire and engage as many young people as possible to think about home design, for them to discover and train for the many varied fantastic career paths and opportunities the Built Environment industry offers to absolutely everyone regardless of interests, talents or backgrounds.
"This project will be especially unique because usually these challenges are open to everyone, to all schools, colleges and universities wherever you live or study, but this is just for students in Washington.
“The plan is to get young people to design what would be a new mini area of Washington, with fantastic housing at the forefront of it.
“We are asking for designs and community master planning ideas for homes which would be here for the next sixty years.”
Two youngsters looking forward to taking part in the competition are Jack Sanderson, 13, and Shaun Hair, 14, who are both pupils at George’s former school, Oxclose Academy.
Shaun said: “I’m really excited about the design project and it’s great for young people to be asked to be involved as part of the 60th anniversary celebrations.
“It was great to meet George Clarke and hear him talk about his life in Washington.
“He’s had a really successful career and I’m proud he went to my school.”
Jack added: “I’m really excited about the project. George is a great role model for us as pupils at his old school.
“Washington has a rich history and it’s important for this to be shared and celebrated.”
Youngsters across all age groups will be supported in the challenge with MOBIE education packs, online workshops, design classes and even an input from George himself.
In July, George will be returning to Washington as part of the New Town’s celebrations to give out certificates to those taking part and prizes for the winning teams.
He said: “It is an absolute honour and pleasure to be a part of Washington’s 60th Anniversary celebrations and to launch this special design challenge for the young people who live here.
"I’m absolutely buzzing at the prospect of seeing the young people’s designs.
“Seeing what they come up with is the most important thing. It’s about young people being inspired to design beautiful housing.
“For me to be standing here today in my hometown talking about this challenge and launching this amazing project is off the scale brilliant.
“I would never have imagined in a million years that I would be in a position to do this - I’m chuffed to bits.
“Let’s show the rest of the country what young designers in Washington are thinking for their future in this amazing town."
The launch of the project is one of a series of celebratory events which will take place over the next eight months, culminating in a celebratory town party including music and food on the weekend of July 20 and 21.
The celebrations are being organised by chair of the Washington Area Committee, Cllr Sean Laws.
Cllr Laws said: “It was great to have George here today to launch this project which can hopefully inspire many of these young people to be the next town planners and architects and make a real difference to their lives.
“It’s vitally important to have young people involved in the anniversary celebrations as whilst we are celebrating 60 years of history, these young people may be the town’s residents for the next 60 years.”
Also at the launch event was the city’s mayor, Cllr Dortohy Trueman who said: “It’s brilliant to have George here today to hopefully inspire the next George or Georgina Clarke.”
The challenge is open to all schools in Washington. Further details and registration can be found on the MOBIE website.
Further details of the celebrations planned for Washington's 60th birthday are set to be unveiled in the New Year.