Townscape – making spaces into places


This exhibition was linked to an illustrated talk by architect/artist John Bishop, delivered in January 2016 at the Foxlowe Arts Centre.   It was originally in the cafe but is now in the Cruso Room, with two donated pieces in the corner of the corridor.

The talk and the exhibition trace how young people respond creatively to the built environments in which they live. They do this through project work alongside their teachers, their families and the project artists and designers they work with. Through such joint exploration and creative response the young people, their teachers and members of their families became advocates and practitioners for the craft of “making spaces into places”.


As you will see they do this through the designing, making and staging of creative events that enrich the spaces they have selected in their town or city. Events that respond to “the stories” of such spaces and “the feelings” that such spaces generate in the people who occupy them.


Most of the project work in the exhibition took place in the period 1999-2005 when John Bishop was Education Officer at The Center for Understanding the Built Environment (CUBE) in Manchester. This work received national and international recognition.


In 2015 John Bishop decided to revisit the creative approach that generated the responses you see in the exhibition and in order to do this he set up “spaces into places”; a programme of research into built environment education that he plans to base here in Leek.

A major influence in the ideas that underpin the project – Townscape – making spaces into places – is the philosophy of the Italian educational movement Reggio Children. They advocate the importance of the children’s project work being generated by their sensory experiences of places in the built environment of their city in these words:

Perhaps this is because the town and city is truly the context of children’s lives. A place of relationships that is truly significant in their personal experiences.

   Or perhaps it is above all because the children’s view of the city is optimistic and full of life, open to the future while firmly rooted in the present. A sense of the future that boldly demands to be listened to and dialogued with; a tenacious feeling of optimism that claims the right to be part of the dialogue in giving shape and identity to the town or the city.”

This quotation is translated from the Italian and taken from  Reggio Tutta – A guide book to the city of Reggio Emilia published by Reggio Children – a guide book that is full of the children’s maps and drawings that help the parents and visiting adults to see the city through the eyes of its children.

Any artists, photographers or musicians who are interested in working on future projects of this type in Leek, and working out of the Foxlowe Arts Centre, can find out more by contacting John Bishop at