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Sustainable tourism: must tourism damage the toured?

Wouldn't it be great if... we had more examples of sustainable tourism on which to build?

Radical ideas, real locations

This international design camp, led by Steve Messam, brought together teams of young designers, senior students, visual artists, architects and young professionals to develop sustainable tourism ideas for (and with) specific North East locations and communities.

Participants came from eight different countries and spanned many disciplines. Their projects looked at everything from urban camping to the structures that are likely to emerge with the advent of geothermal energy, and the decoration of landscape using the tools and patterns of agriculture.

The teams were allocated to four locations across the North East of England and asked to investigate how sustainable tourism might be developed Movement / Sustainable Tourism. They worked with local partners to document the features of value in the area.

Tasks included:

  • Describing how visitors might experience this feature in new ways
  • Creating an opportunity map of places, or services, to be designed
  • Creating artefacts and/or a storyboard of a proposed new service or situation
  • Describing the business or enterprise model that would make their proposal truly sustainable.

Throughout the 10-day camp, the teams worked with co-ordinators and the local community to tackle the design challenges. Various experts from around the world acted as mentors to the teams through a series of day and evening sessions.

In carbon footprint terms, one holiday in New Zealand is equivalent to 60 short visits to the North East7. But 60 more holidays in Newcastle will not be sustainable if they require investment in heavy new infrastructure and/or promote wasteful behaviour by the visitor and implemented there.


Your holiday travel footprint

Urban camping

Exploring the concept of urban camping and 'camp&ride' schemes as a model for sustainable urban tourism, the first group worked on an urban camping brief. Their aim was to transform a disused space in NewcastleGateshead into sustainable accommodation for visitors the to the Dott 07 Festival in October. The team envisaged a huge tent space based in an archway beneath Byker Bridge, which would protect the visitor from North's October weather. Tents would sit on platforms of varied heights within the cocoon.

The area would be electricity-free and would have a communal cooking and eating area to encourage sharing and conversation, as well as a more relaxed beanbag seating area.

The group looked beyond the physical to design with the entire experience in mind: a local man and his dog - 'Bob and the Dog'- were to welcome people to the campsite and act as security, Quaylink buses were to bring people from Central Station to Ouseburn and the local business Recyke Y' Bike was to provide recycled red Dott 07 bikes for visitors to explore the city.

Allendale Industrial Heritage
The second design camp group worked with the rural community and industrial heritage of the North Pennines on a project entitled 'Revealing the Invisible'. The concept involved staging night-time outdoor light installations, highlighting industrial structures that have become ruined or have disappeared completely. The centrepieces of the light installations were all features of Allendale's lead mining heritage and community, including a long-demolished aqueduct, a spectacular water wheel on the old smelt mill, and the Blackett level, a long, straight, underground tunnel. Audiences were particularly taken with the team's interpretation of two largely ruined round stone chimneys, which were 'virtually' recreated using strong beams of bright, blue light shone from inside the structures to represent their original height.


Designing the agricultural landscape How could minor changes to farming procedures change the face of the landscape? This was the question the Landlines team asked themselves while working with farmers to explore how existing resources might be used to change the view from the windows of Mainline trains travelling through the North East. The aim of the project was also to underline the roles of farmers as producers and custodians of the landscape. The Landlines project will be ongoing over the next 18 months.

Wind Power in the Landscape

The final project explored the concept of power generation as visual spectacle and tourist attraction. It asked: can wind power have a positive effect on the landscape and tourism? Are wind farms examples of contemporary beauty or monstrosities obstructing the view?

The group developed an unusual way of communicating the power of these huge structures, thereby creating a reason for tourists and local residents alike to visit the site. The rotation of each turbine would turn a huge 'skirt' of material suspended around its trunk. Visitors could gather beneath the whirling installation - named Perpetua - and use the space to meet others, hold events or watch the world go by.

From December 1-14, 2007, WorldChanging will be featuring articles from Dott 07 (Designs of the time 2007), a year of community projects, events and exhibitions based in North East England, explored what life in a sustainable region could be like -- and how design can help us get there.

Click here to read the introduction to the series, "Dott 07: a new industrial revolution."

A national initiative of the Design Council and the regional development agency One NorthEast, Dott 07 is the first in a 10-year programme of biennial events developed by the Design Council that will take place across the UK. The projects were small but important real-life examples of sustainable living, which will evolve and multiply in the years ahead. Several projects were delivered in partnership with Culture10, based at NewcastleGateshead Initiative. Culture10 manages North East England's world-class festival and events programme.

Dott 07 projects aim to improve five aspects of daily life: movement, health, food, school and energy. The focus of the initiative was on grassroots community projects; but there were also projects involving more than 70 schools, plus exhibitions and events in museums, galleries and rural sites. All events explore how design can improve our lives in meaningful ways.

The year culminated in a free 12-day Dott 07 Festival in Baltic Square on the banks of the River Tyne. It brought together the results of the projects and enabled all those involved to share experiences and plan what to do next. Outstanding achievements were celebrated in the Creative Community Awards. Above all, the festival was an opportunity for many more people to find out how to participate in similar projects - and thereby accelerate the region's transition to sustainability.

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