Workshop ~ Landscape Architecture, BA

Landscape Architecture, Birmingham City University, BA Student Brief 2011 April


What could radical towpath furniture look like? drifting bridges, cable slides… How can the connecting function of the canals be revitalised, how can it creep into a new form?  

Take a 90-min excursion aboard the KAYAK LIBRE along the waterways of Birmingham. Slow the pace, change your perspective. Things in the water appear closer than they really are – mirroring the situation on the roads.


The development of canals and railways reshaped the West Midlands during the Industrial Revolution, connecting the region to the rest of the world while also dividing neighbouring individuals and families. This connection and isolation happened literally (physically) and also systemically, through changes in the nature of work. In the 20th century, highways continued this process of connection and isolation. And today, data networks do the same – always interposing themselves in direct communication, empowering while creating dependencies. At the same time, the older infrastructure decays, lacking investment of new ideas for transforming it into anything beyond a crassly commercial ‘leisure zone’.
The KAYAK LIBRE project traverses the waterways of the Industrial Revolution and the data highways of the Information Revolution in search of a sustainable, collectively negotiated future. Documentary images, conversations recorded aboard the boat, sketches and CAD models of radical towpath interventions, and public discussions will all feature on an interactive online map of the Birmingham canal network.

You are invited to join us for a day of discussion and ‘blue-sky’ thinking, after which you may book a ride on the kayak. Following this, we ask you to contribute a sketch or software or physical model of your proposed towpath furniture, for inclusion on the interactive map.

The students' presentations of their designs can be accessed at - Birmingham Canal Map - Overlays: towpath furniture workshop; or in blog form here