Newcastle’s NE1 brings in design students to regenerate Bigg Market

(L to R): Andrew Richardson, Franz Pancho, Alex Slack, Chang Shi Qian and Lars Erik Holmquist


Newcastle Business Improvement District company NE1 Ltd has brought on design students from Northumbria University to attract new audiences to the city’s Bigg Market.

As part of NE1’s £3.2 million National Lottery Heritage Funded Bigg Market regeneration scheme, final year students from Northumbria’s Interaction Design BA (Hons) programme were given a live brief, inviting them to come up with ideas for digital installations which would reflect the area’s historic past, and attract new audiences.

The winning proposal took inspiration from the historic Winter Zoo, which saw tigers, lions, giraffes and an elephant housed within the Bigg Market’s now demolished Town Hall during the 1960s.

The concept, by students Franz Pancho and Chang Shi Qian, would see the animals return to the Bigg Market in the form of holograms, projected onto street furniture using their unique Virtual Hologram Box (VOX).

Alex Slack, Bigg Market Project Manager at NE1, said the students had been able to bring new ideas and a fresh perspective to the challenge of changing perceptions of the Bigg Market and bringing a daytime audience back to the area.

He said: “It was evident that the students were not entrenched in their own views of the area which gave them the freedom to think differently and creatively.

“All of their projects used innovative digital technology to look back at the history of the Bigg Market, combining the old with the new to give people a real sense of Newcastle’s historic heart, which is exactly what we are aiming to achieve through NE1’s Bigg Market regeneration project.”

Northumbria University and NE1 have collaborated on a number of projects in the past, with students from Graphic Design, Fine Art and Fashion Communications also involved in the Bigg Market regeneration scheme.

The live brief was led by Professor of Innovation Lars Erik Holmquist and Senior Lecturer Andrew Richardson, of the Northumbria School of Design. Professor Holmquist explained: “This type of collaborative working is beneficial for everyone – the students get to experience what it is like to work on a real brief which benefits them when they graduate, and the client, in this case NE1, benefits from the students’ creativity and fresh ideas, inspired by the latest technology and research.”