Q+A with Design-Led Construction: The Pilcrow Pub, Manchester

The Pilcrow pub uses design as a catalyst to build a neighbourhood. With a new construction opening in Autumn in Sadler’s Yard, Manchester, Aesthetica catches up with Director Ben Young to discuss the importance of design and craft in contemporary culture as a way of promoting social stability.

A: The Pilcrow Pub promises to be a construction that kick-starts a sense of neighbourhood in Manchester. Could you explain how you think social community is important in contemporary culture?
A sense of belonging is just as important as it always has been, and feeling anchored to our surroundings is a very reassuring feeling that is sometimes lost when redevelopment happens. We see The Pilcrow as a way to help ensure that, as a place evolves, the people are kept front and centre in the plans for their new neighbourhood and have a positive impact on the result.

A: This spring you opened a multi-disciplinary workshop for the public. Could you talk about what this has offered in terms of artistic expression and creating a sense of unity with people?
: Each workshop starts with a loose prototype or process in mind with the aim of building a particular part of the pub. We purposefully plan to “under plan” as much as possible, keeping the design iterative and building as we go, ensuring that each piece is a true collaboration with the public. Even when a workshop has more considerable restraints in place, the fact that we are making every part by hand reveals the mannerisms of the participants.

Making things together is quite an open and giving thing to do as it means people are sharing ideas and opinions throughout the process. Whether the volunteers at each workshop know each other or not, they leave with a real sense of comradery and belonging, which can be quite rare in the digital age.

A: What type of objects were made during these workshops and what do you think was the overall outcome?
BY: We are aiming to make every part of a contemporary pub. We were very conscious that objects made in collaboration with the general public could end up a little folksy and homespun, at odds with a modern public house. I think there has been just enough material and process restraint in place to keep everything nice and crisp, whilst still portraying the fact that each piece is individual and made by hand.

So far our workshops have included making hanging baskets weaved from willow harvested at Reddish Country Vale Park, turned beer pump handles from leather-hard clay, and exploring different flavours for pub snacks. We’ve also just been coopering in Yorkshire and have plans for coffee tasting, conduit laying and creating some copper top tables.

Everything hangs together nicely and you can see a thread of The Pilcrow throughout. There is no doubt that every individual will be able to pick out the piece they made.

A: Do you think that in spite of the digital age people still want to participate in crafts, and there is still a place for it in modern society?
BY: We see design and craft as one and the same. They are both about producing things well and appropriately and being sympathetic towards your surroundings. As long as there is a place for this, then there is a place for craft.

A: Could you talk about how voluntary action and support works to benefit the community as a whole and your place within it?
BY:  This our first project that has looked to work in collaboration with creative potential of the crowd and we are overwhelmed by the response. There is a real desire for people to put their stamp on their local neighbourhood. By being part of making a place you are taking a little bit of ownership of it. Not only this but we’re giving people an opportunity to learn skills they might otherwise only read about; everyone’s welcome to have a go and try, no previous experience required.

When you feel a neighbourhood is yours you become an ambassador for it, especially when it’s already started to give back to the community.

A: Could you talk about the architectural plans for the pub which will be completed this Autumn in Sadler’s Yard?
BY: The public workshop will evolve into a modern, contemporary looking pub. It is a steel framed structure, clad in larch, with a pitched roof. It looks a little odd in place next to the towering brick and glass structures that surround it, but hopefully not out of place – we are really fond of it!

For more information visit www.thepilcrowpub.com 

1. The frame of the pub taking shape at Sadler’s Yard, ready to be clad in Siberian larch . Photo Credit: Rob Evans, With Love Photography.