Placing young people front and centre at The Courts

16 May 2023

Together, Purcell and local Bristol charity Creative Youth Network are transforming the city’s former Bridewell Magistrates’ Court into The Courts: a vibrant, creativity-focused enterprise hub for young people. 

A shared vision for the project, with youth empowerment and social mobility at its core, has been the driving force behind The Courts. Going beyond tick-box exercises, we have worked with Creative Youth Network to engage with and involve those intended to benefit from the project, from its inception through to completion. 

Most recently, the project site hosted a youth workshop in collaboration with local charity Design West as part of their #ShapeMyCity programme, which aims to give young people from diverse backgrounds an introduction to the construction industry. 

Responding to the shared, youth-focused mission of both charities, as well as the client’s funding requirements, the Bridewell site made an ideal backdrop for the interactive workshop. Purcell project team Clare Phillips and Nuria Garcia gave animated hardhat tours of the site for the 24 students, followed by a creative clay moulding session which saw them replicate some of the Grade II-listed building’s details, before going on to design their own clay mastheads inspired by their own personal visions for the future of The Courts.  

As well as providing a new, hands-on experience to young people, the workshops encouraged conversations on different career pathways, with Clare and Nuria able to share their own stories and career journeys. This was particularly poignant for the team, who are dedicated to helping Creative Youth Network to accomplish their mission of helping young people on their way to living happy and fulfilled lives. 

As architects, we believe that a collaborative approach with end-users, local communities, and stakeholders is essential in creating inclusive and impactful projects.  This approach ensures that the final product is not only aesthetically pleasing but also functional and tailored to the needs of the people who will use it. By involving local communities and stakeholders in the design process, we can create spaces that truly reflect the cultural and social identities of the people who inhabit them.

— Nuria Garcia, Architect

Both our own and the client’s aligned values led to a need to keep youth engagement at the forefront of the project: more than just a ‘tick-box’ exercise, the project reflects a genuine commitment to improving the lives of young people in Bristol.  

This was evident from the beginning, when the consultation process began with a series of workshops inviting young people to share their aspirations for the future of the building. These workshops evolved into a Youth Advisory Board: a group of young creatives, aged 15 to 24, who now meet monthly to discuss their ideas and opinions around the project.  

The group has been imperative to the project, guiding the project team and ensuring that the needs of emerging young talent, particularly those from disadvantaged or marginalised backgrounds, are considered, and influencing the overall development and delivery of the project. 

Close collaboration has enabled this crucial youth engagement to remain consistent as works progress at The Courts. From regular reviews and workshops, to implementing the Youth Advisory Board’s mood boards into the project design, the team has strived to listen to and include young people wherever possible, paving the way for a project which faithfully identifies with and benefits its end users.