King Richard III – Its not just old bones – it’s Historic Urban Regeneration

Irish Bank Building

Part of the 3D Digital model of the Geryfriars area of Leicester recently constructed by DMU Architectural Studies students as part of their ongoing development of regenation proposals. The remains of King Richard III were found just behind the building shown here.

As many throughout the UK now know our colleagues at the University of Leicester have discovered the remains of King Richard III, on a site in central Leicester called Greyfriars, named after the medieval monastic settlement that occupied it. The confirmation that Richard III, the last Plantagenet king of England, killed at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485 and buried without ceremony soon afterwards in the choir of Greyfriars church in Leicester has been finally found after over five hundred years is welcome news and a great achievement for the University of Leicester team led by their Chief Archaeologist, Richard Buckley. However the area in which the remains were found is important as well, it is also called “the old town” and was once the business area of Leicester, dominated by law offices and small banks. The business centre of Leicester shifted some time ago and several buildings in the Greyfriars area have been demolished leaving very large gaps in the urban fabric and of course there is little residential accommodation so the area is becoming run down and subject to vandalism. Recognizing this decline early on, Leicester City Council has been taking active steps to plan sensitive long term regeneration for the area. With the discovery in Greyfriars of the remains of King Richard III, who will be re-interred not two hundred yards away in Leicester Cathedral, the plans for the regeneration of this area of Leicester have developed a new potency. Since October last year, the Digital Building Heritage group has been working with a group of Architectural Studies students at De Montfort University to create a large scale, highly detailed 3D digital model of the Greyfriars area of the city and to design a mixed use re-development plan which will include a new King Richard III visitor’s centre, small, specialist, high quality retail outlets, small cafes and restaurants, apartments for family living and some multi-story car parking. As well as carrying out the survey work and producing the 3D digital model the group has spent three months analyzing the architecture of the area and have benefitted from the advice and input of the Conservation Team at Leicester City Council. They have typologically catalogued all of the notable architectural features of the buildings and have compiled this into a small forty page booklet. They have produced time-lapse videos to analyze traffic and car parking usage and produced explanatory videos using the fused media lab and green screen studio at DMU. They’ve analyzed  case studies of best practice historic urban regeneration of a similar scale and complexity in the UK, Morocco and Syria and they’ve set up their own blog-site for their project at http://p09246911.our.dmu.ac.uk/  The students are currently now in the design phase of their work, developing proposals for small, individual buildings in the Greyfriar’s area which fit in sympathetically with the existing buildings and show how contemporary architecture can blend in with the existing listed buildings to help regenerate a historic urban fabric. It’s not just an English King that’s being resurrected; it’s also part of the historic fabric of the City of Leicester that he has lain in for the past five hundred years that is going to be brought back to life.

About Douglas Cawthorne

Reader in Digital Heritage at De Montfort University.
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