Blackpool Elders’ Centre, UK

The GEN Z Series travels from University of Liverpool to Oxford Brookes University to meet Lucy Stevenson, a 2023 BA (Hons) Architecture graduate. She hails from a small village in the South of England. A nature lover, Lucy reveals, “Living alongside natural beauty has made me really appreciate green space and view cities from a very fresh perspective. My mother has a consulting business. My father works as a quantity surveyor. He is highly supportive of my ambition to work in the field of architecture. My parents have always encouraged me to pursue my dreams (smiles).”

Lucy Stevenson is passionate about commercial architecture, especially sustainable urban designing. She believes it is at the forefront for world’s future. Lucy revealed that she is the first in the family to attend and graduate with a degree from a university. Her younger sister is currently studying politics. The close-knit family of the Stevenson is very supportive of each other. Inquisitive by nature, Lucy comes across as a creative individual, who never misses an opportunity given to her.

Passivhaus Design Features

Johnny D interacts with Lucy Stevenson about her quest in the architecture world and her thesis ‘Blackpool Elders’ Centre, UK’.

What was your childhood ambition? Did you always wanted to become an architect?

I was a very sociable and driven young person, volunteering with girls’ guide for four years and taking part in the race for life. My early dream was to become an artist and make meaningful artwork to benefit others. After observing the environment around me, I realised that the aesthetics of the structures around me, like art, told narratives and reflected unique emotions. As a result of this interest, I chose to study Architecture, which seemed like a perfect creative and real world option. My enthusiasm has shifted from aesthetic to construction and ‘how things work’ interest, since the moment I observed the beauty and resemblance of the buildings around me.

Site Plan

How has architecture influenced your life as a student?

I have learned the importance of creative vision and creating realistic goals for myself and my work. Architecture challenged me to be resilient and take constructive criticism. I enjoyed learning about historical theories and building methods at various scales, which has helped me to understand more about the cities I visit, in terms of unique buildings and masterplans. For example, renowned Spanish urban planner and engineer Ildefons Cerdà planned and implemented the square block city in Barcelona, which influenced numerous smaller cities and villages to adopt the same layout to improve access and air circulation. When I visit a new city, I cannot help but to be curious as to why it is the way it is and what styles affected it, which is both a blessing and a curse.

Analysis of Building Views and Accessibility

Briefly tell us about your University and the Course. 

In May 2023, I graduated from three years of study of Architecture at Oxford Brookes University with First Class Honours. During my studies, I was exposed to lecturers with a wide range of architectural abilities and experience, which greatly inspired my aspirations and dreams to become an architect. One of my tutors had a deep understanding of our current stance on sustainability as a field of work, but she was also able to demonstrate to me the absolute importance of designing for our ever-emerging world rather than against it, which has formed my ethos and drive as I begin my career.

Existing Building Plans and History

Briefly describe the significance of your project.

My project, located in Blackpool, UK, was a retrofit of a historical building that used a regenerative technique and materials to assist in solving a problem in the town. The ‘Blackpool Elders’ Centre’ is a structure that brings together the community for skill exchange, particularly the elderly and younger generations, while also promoting the development of political viewpoints in Blackpool. The centre held citizens’ assemblies to assist Blackpool’s position as a prominent UK representative of the cultural political transition. By keeping the building’s outer structure and façade, the internal space was opened up and a more integrated design was created, connecting the various-sized meeting rooms for debate.

Design Development

One of the main goals of my project was to design the building according to Passivhaus design principles to improve the building’s self-sufficiency and give it new life. By adding materials, such as internal strawbale insulation and a new zinc roofing design. The building’s U-values were brought down to code, allowing it to better retain and generate its own heating and cooling.

Main Meeting Hall

My project’s aim in the wider world was to allow for freedom of speech and discussion in Blackpool, which could inspire that specific design ethos in other small cities that do not have a hub for discussion. The design using regenerative materials was to represent our sustainability crisis in the world; showing that buildings can be totally transformed by keeping original structure and making conscious decisions on sustainable additions to the building. These decisions were based on the carbon footprint of the materials and how they affect the planet in the short and long term.

Roof Plan

Which National or International architect has inspired / influenced you? Please specify as to why? 

When I was in Hong Kong four years ago, I saw the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge, which connects land in the Greater Bay Area. Mott MacDonald, the project’s primary architecture firm, oversaw one of the most complex structural and environmental construction projects that I have ever seen first-hand. They combined the need for large vessels to travel through the bay with the demand for public transport across the harbour.

The dying Vegas of UK

They not only designed a means for all human activities to continue and even improve, but also they created unique structures and foundations to avoid disturbing the native dolphin population’s habitat. Their concern for as many species as possible in the area demonstrates how they designed with the world, rather than against it. In terms of social strategy and complicated construction, this project inspired many of my undergraduate efforts.

East Facing Sectional View

As an Intern, what is the most important lesson(s) you have learnt from senior architects, while being a part of a project?  

I have completed four work experience placements. They have given me a better knowledge of how a practice works together to deliver the greatest advise and client interactions possible; no one member on the team’s role is insignificant. I also learned from a senior architect that, as artificial intelligence becomes more of a threat to our industry, one skill that will be difficult to replace is an experienced architect’s ability to sketch and represent what is inside the client’s head and offer a professional opinion combined with their preference; which is a skill good architects have.

Sectional View

If you are given the responsibility to rectify the Urban Planning of an existing city to overcome floods due to Climate Crisis, what major steps would you take to implement in your planning design to make cities flood-proof? 

As flooding in cities are becoming more frequent, I would propose an incorporation of design elements into existing buildings, such as interiors that float with rising water levels or greater flooding risk in the neighbourhood. The concept of preserving the original structure, while changing the ‘lived-in’ environment to provide a sense of familiarity for its residents, thereby respecting and also working with our planet.


Pontoon architecture has been experimented with and improved in several modern design instances. It is not a new concept and can be incorporated into more design as preventative measures, rather than design after the fact.

Sectional View – 2

Which significant aspects of the global platform ‘zerobeyond – the new frontier!’ did you liked the most, and why?

I believe the voice ‘zerobeyond – the new frontier!’ provides for the younger generation, particularly university graduates, is a fantastic opportunity and is extremely important in the world of architecture. I realize, there are very few possibilities like the global platform provides to prepare fresh graduates for their future.

Structural Detailing

Local charm of cities has diminished due to Modern Architecture as every city looks alike and similar. How should architects / urban planners / landscape architects modernize cities, while maintaining the local charm intact? 

I investigated how we have subconsciously designed our structures through ornamentation and decorating in the past to hold our memories and boost our learning skills in my undergraduate dissertation. I investigated how similar our current urban areas seem and whether this was due to technology, and the ease of replication diverting us from the character and users’ representation that we require in our surrounding environment to evolve.

Main Conversation Area

My proposal for the future is to incorporate our psychological scientific understanding into our design process to ensure that the personality and ‘local charm’ of that culture is preserved as technology advances.

Exploded View

Honours and awards related to architecture, if any.

First Class Honours Bachelor of Arts Architecture degree;

The Riach Award for ‘Best sustainability development in second year of university’.

Material Study

Image Courtesy: Lucy Stevenson

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