Phoenix Project Newsletter - July 2021

Welcome to the July edition of the Phoenix Project newsletter - a regular update of news and views from our Phoenix Project in Lewes, East Sussex where we’re planning a new mixed-use, walkable, connected, renewably-powered, creative, super-green, 3-minute neighbourhood offering housing choice to all kinds of households.

In this edition:
Phoenix Project Design Festival 10th - 12th September

Maybe like us you’re putting off finalising summer holiday plans until the last minute. But here’s something to confirm in your diary right now: following delays due to lockdown restrictions our Phoenix Project Design Festival will take place Friday 10th to Sunday 12th September.  And we’d love you to come!

Join us on site with our architects, engineers, designers and other specialists to explore the evolving masterplan and ideas for street layouts, housing tenures and design, community spaces, zero waste, green energy, slow food and all the other things that will help make this a special place. 

We’ve signed a Planning Performance Agreement with the South Downs National Park, and aim to secure a new planning permission for the site by the end of 2022. We want to share and gather ideas for the project - including co-housing design and shared living, down-sizer and starter homes for young people, safe and green streets and of course a great nightclub! 

A programme of talks, workshops, demonstrations, local food, drink, dance and entertainment for all ages will keep you busy whether you join us for a couple of hours or a couple of days. 

More details - including how to sign up for talks and workshops - coming soon. Meanwhile, save the date!

Meet: Emilie Jaspers - Human Nature architect

Our in-house design team works alongside external architectural and landscape practices assembled for each project. Emilie joined our team earlier this year. 

Growing up in Scandinavia and working on development projects around the world has given her architectural work a truly international perspective. Now she’s applying that experience to helping design the Phoenix Project here in Lewes in ways that inspire and enable sustainable living.

Where did your interest in design and sustainable living come from?  

“I grew up in Denmark and Norway, so a healthy and sustainable way of life was second nature for me - for example as a child, cycling and rollerblading were just as important as learning to walk, and were stitched into my everyday life from then on. 

Growing up in co-operative housing association buildings showed me first-hand both the benefits and the challenges of shared living. Many of the shared facilities were meeting points for social interaction.  We got to know our neighbours really well, felt safe and could see from an early age how living this way was more environmentally friendly.

“My masters programme at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts focused on Architecture and Extreme Environments. Working on projects such as phytoremediation of the polluted Yellow River in China and bamboo toilets for girls in Pemba Island, Tanzania reinforced the fundamental importance of focusing on outcomes - and specifically on quality of life for people and the ecology they live within - as a core principle driving anything we’re designing. I’m still finding inspiration from all around the world - from Kenyan agroforestry initiatives to Portuguese edible botanical gardens. "

You’re working at the heart of the Phoenix Project design team. Which aspects of the project are you finding most exciting? 

“One of the things I love most about the project is the way we’re using the principle of healthy and sustainable living to inform every aspect of the site. This is expressed in so many different ways - from climbing walls, yoga and rehearsal space in the Old Soap Factory to urban farming and super-greening on every possible building, roof and balcony”. 

What are you preparing for the Design Festival  10th - 12th September? 

“I’m helping curate the exhibition space, preparing models and an axonometric map and an illustrative roof plan, showing everyday life around the project. And I’m diving deep into plans for a proposed sustainable living and recreational centre in the Old Soap Factory. It’s going to be so exciting to share our early drawings with everyone, and to gather ideas and inspirations from the wider community”.


The Power of Doing: Renovating the Phoenix site

The Phoenix Project site has a long industrial and cultural heritage. As we work on plans for the neighbourhood’s next big chapter we want to keep as many buildings in action as possible. Empty sheds are a waste!

The Phoenix Foundry (above) was built for Every’s Iron and Steel Works in the early nineteenth century. Once a vibrant hub of craftsmanship and innovation (where the railings for St Paul’s Cathedral and the ironwork for Brighton Pier and Lewes Station were made), more recently it was used by Artemis Arts to host art shows and events. This fabulous big industrial space closed in 2016 and fell derelict as the roof and walls started collapsing. We’re sorting it out and will reopen it as the venue for our September Design Festival. After that it will be available to rent for shows, events and creative making while we explore how to best upcycle it as a permanent multi-use space alongside the new square at the heart of our development. 

We’re busy renovating the Phoenix House office building (above) to accommodate our growing team of architects, designers, planners and other experts and to welcome guests from our network of partners and collaborators. After more than a year on Zoom we’re thrilled to host socially distanced meetings in person! 

Rather than consuming yet more virgin materials we’re keen on what distinguished architect and Human Nature collaborator Duncan Baker Brown calls mining the anthropocene whenever possible - reusing and repurposing the wealth of materials discarded by humans in the past century. The construction industry can dramatically reduce its consumption of natural resources by re-using previously used materials and artefacts - we’ll be putting this principle into practice throughout the development of the Phoenix Project. We’ve already started by reclaiming timber from floors in the old Hammonds building to create parklets and planters around the site and build the display stands for the September Design Festival.

Youthfulness: Lewes students' parklets; plus skate centre plans

We want The Phoenix to be a place young people feel they belong and can flourish into adulthood. So the principle of ‘youthfulness’ is woven into our plans.

What could happen in a parking lot if it wasn’t given to a car? Teams of Lewes Art and Design students have been designing ‘parklets’ for the Phoenix site in partnership with Culture Shift Lewes and East Sussex College Group as part of a Your Town Engineers programme funded by the RA Ingenious Fund

The students were challenged to explore how an area the size of two car parking spaces could be used to support healthy and sustainable living for people and other creatures. Their thoughtful and perceptive designs considered bike parking, places to sit, bird boxes and even solar powered charging spots. We were delighted to invite two groups to our Human Nature office last week to discuss building their parklets this summer for the site.

We’ll be displaying all the students' models and drawings at our Design Festival alongside two full scale parklets (including those above), built in collaboration with the students and their teacher James DiBiase.

These parklets are just one tiny example of how we can encourage ecological flourishing in an urban context. Together with landscape architects and master planners Periscope and Ecology Solutions  we’re developing an urban ecology strategy for our whole project - mapping the relationship between the landscape and ecology on site now and in the future and the wider town and South Downs ecosystems of which it’s a part.

Lewes boy Diggs English, Olypmpic skateboard semi-finalist, credit: Sam Ibekwe

Coming soon: a new indoor skateboarding centre!

Exciting news from new tenants Ben and Viv English:

“We’re delighted to have been offered a space by Human Nature on the Phoenix industrial estate, where we can start to build our dream of an indoor skateboarding facility in our lovely town of Lewes. We hope to build an all-inclusive, safe and fun space that helps to promote physical and mental wellbeing, as well as community kinship and all round positive vibes. If you’ve ever picked up or thought of picking up a skateboard then get in touch:“ 

CALLING ALL LOCAL BUSINESSES: office & creative space available on site

If you want to liberate your spare room or reclaim the kitchen table after too many months of homeworking please get in touch. We have individual and shared work and studio spaces to rent in the Waterside Centre next to Wiley's Bridge.  Some with a riverside view! For more information please contact 

This newsletter is brought to you by Human Nature - a campaigning development company creating places that inspire and enable people to live great lives within the planet's limits. 

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