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20th August 2021

Welcome to the latest edition of the Phoenix Project newsletter – a regular update of news and views from our Phoenix Project in Lewes, East Sussex. 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. Sign up to future newsletters here.

We’ll be presenting our work in progress for the Phoenix site at a design festival on 10-12th September. Explore an exhibition in the Foundry Gallery and join talks, workshops and other events with the Human Nature team, designers, specialists and invited guests. We’ll be gathering input on the work in progress so we can enhance the plans and designs, blending local expertise with the experience of our professional team to make this a truly remarkable place for Lewes. We’d love to see you there! 

Talks kick off on Friday evening with a presentation by Human Nature Founder and CEO Jonathan Smales on the ‘Why, How & What’ of the Phoenix Project. 

The programme also includes talks on building in timber and sustainable local materials by Paloma Gormley of Material Cultures and Steven Johnson of The Architectural Ensemble, while Fred Labbé and Judith Sykes of Expedition Engineering and Daniel Rea of landscape architects and urban designers Periscope will talk about flood strategies for the development. Patrick Bellew of Atelier Ten (see below) will share his perspectives on how the Phoenix Project can be designed to help mitigate and adapt to climate catastrophe. 

Enjoy local food and drink from Zu Cafe and Beak Brewery, plus a great musical line-up curated by the team behind the Lewes Hilltop Sessions. This will include composer and songwriter Guy Chambers, local skiffle band The Magnificent Kevens and jazz-punk outfit Opus Kink. A full programme of events, talks and workshops will be posted on our website soon. (Image: Philip Volkers)

As we work on plans for this former industrial neighbourhood’s next big chapter we want to keep as many buildings in action as possible.

One of the key buildings is the old Soap Factory, which was previously home to John Gosnell & Company – the oldest manufacturer of personal care products in the UK, dating from 1677. In recent months we’ve been clearing the space and prising open its sliding doors for the first time in years – revealing a mountain of old soap bars. The venue – which we’re calling the Soapbox – will host a series of talks at the Design Festival. (Image by Philip Volkers

In each newsletter we introduce members of the Human Nature team and the network of architects, designers and other specialists working on the Phoenix Project. In this edition, meet Patrick Bellew, a Chartered Building Services Engineer with more than 30 years’ experience in the design of high-performance buildings and systems and Founding Director of world-leading environmental engineering and design practice Atelier Ten.

How are you involved in the Phoenix Project and what drew you to it?
“I’m working with the Human Nature team initially doing some visioning work around energy, materials and what we should be aspiring to achieve in terms of closed-loop systems. We are aiming to minimise the carbon emissions associated with the construction and operation of the buildings as well as looking at water management in this interesting context of buildings on an urban floodplain. Our early involvement has really been around trying to work on the art of the possible, to know how far we can push this. Human Nature is interested in pushing way beyond triple bottom line thinking, we’re talking about 'exponential sustainability' and how the project can move the dial both nationally and internationally.

“The great appeal of the Phoenix Project is the opportunity to work with a really visionary team, which has already set the bar very high, making great decisions. On the face of it, it’s going to be a difficult project to develop; technically, there are a lot of challenges, particularly with the water and existing infrastructure. It takes a great deal of ingenuity to figure out how to make this a really great settlement. That’s why it's a really interesting challenge, the sort that doesn’t often emerge on this scale with a visionary client like this.”

Read the full interview here

Healthy and sustainable living is at the heart of our plans for the Phoenix Project. And what more enjoyable way to stay healthy than to dance?

The Lewes Dance Academy will be running demonstrations and free taster classes at the Design Festival. The academy, established in 1998, offers children’s dance classes, examinations and competition training, as well as dance classes for adults. Now based at Landport Community Hub, the academy previously had a studio on the Phoenix site. 

Founder Wendy Baker says “I teach children to dance because I truly believe it brings confidence, joy and social skills like nothing else. It keeps children focused and gives them a sense of belonging, and the studio is where so many life-long friendships are made. Come and watch our displays, meet some of the students and learn some dancing!”

See more information on Facebook or get in touch with Wendy.

Lewes-based wellbeing and lifestyle store Radical Giving is on a mission to inspire positive shopping. It stocks zero waste and ethical gifts sourced from charities and social enterprises in the UK and worldwide, plus products from small independent companies that have a positive impact on people, communities and the environment.

“At Radical Giving we’re all about people power and community,” says Founder Milly Edge. “Our business is built on the relationships we have with our radical, forward-thinking suppliers and customers. We have a shared ethos that life is all about meaningful connections and this runs through the very heart of Radical Giving.”

The shop is offering readers a 20% discount – just add PHOENIX20 at checkout or mention the discount in the store.

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