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Making the most of the river is as easy as playing Minecraft


By Ben Comber


Department of Architecture, Faculty of Architecture, 1 Scroope Terrace, Cambridge, James Delaney . Picture: Keith Heppell
Department of Architecture, Faculty of Architecture, 1 Scroope Terrace, Cambridge, James Delaney . Picture: Keith Heppell

A group of more than a dozen Cambridge youngsters tore through Mitcham’s Corner on Saturday, ripping up pavements, roads and even tearing down buildings.

Mitcham's Corner, Cambridge by BlockWorks on Sketchfab

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Only they did so on Minecraft, the popular computer game that allows users to create and interact with a digital world.

The workshop was set up by design firm BlockWorks at the University of Cambridge’s department of architecture and allowed those in attendance to completely rebuild Mitcham’s Corner, working together to make more of the space.

James Delaney, a third year architecture student who runs BlockWorks, told the Cambridge Independent: “It was a really broad mix of people who came, and the majority were from Mitcham’s Corner. We had a lot of teens, the youngest was 10, and there were some older people there too so it was intergenerational.

“We had 15 laptops running and each one had a character in our Mitcham’s Corner on Minecraft. Each of the characters could build and make changes to the map at the same time. It meant people had to talk to each other and make sure they were collaborating.”

Pictures from the Minecraft event. Picture: Keith Heppell
Pictures from the Minecraft event. Picture: Keith Heppell

James and others from BlockWorks spent about 48 hours building a version of Mitcham’s Corner as it is now, before releasing the workshoppers on it. Each square block is around half a metre, to scale.

“The two main things people wanted were much more green, open public space, and better use of the river bank,” James continued. “The riverbank is a really nice area but it’s underused and mostly inaccessible at the moment. People started to make avenues to be able to get there, and someone even built a smoothie bar and an aquarium on the waterfront.”

Users also built a glass terrace on the back of the old Tivoli pub, a reading corner and park on The Boathouse pub’s car park, a food market in place of Barclay’s Bank, a floating café on the river, a greenhouse and urban forest where Staples stands, and a new cycle path, electric car parking hub and an underground network.

James said: “The point wasn’t to make realistic proposals, because Minecraft is not the best tool for that. But what it is good for is starting a conversation about the place. At the beginning people were split into groups, but as the day went on people realised they really needed to talk together and collaborate and each group’s projects began to be about each other’s.

Pictures from the Minecraft event. Picture: Keith Heppell
Pictures from the Minecraft event. Picture: Keith Heppell

“It gets young people involved. It’s not very often that you go to a council consultation and see someone younger than 25.

“At the end of the day users were able to experience what they had built in virtual reality, which is immersive, so as you walked around the room we were in it moved the character on Minecraft.

“It would be great to expand to other areas of Cambridge. We have been running these workshops for a while but this the most community-focussed that we have done. It was great to get kids there and they loved it.”

Visit blockworks.uk/blog/mitchamscorner



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