Wash Your Words library and laundry room Lee and Ecaterina

Blackpool library and laundry room only North West project to make national architecture award shortlist

Blackpool’s Wash Your Words: Langdale Library and Laundry Room has been shortlisted for the RIBA Journal’s MacEwen Award, celebrating architecture and design for the common good.

The Mereside community build, a concept which came from LeftCoast’s long standing work within the area, is the only North West project to be listed alongside 11 others across the UK.

It’s a playful model that brings together a library, laundry room, and artist workshops, encouraging new conversations, relationships, and a shared sense of responsibility with community members.

Lead architects Lee Ivett and Ecaterina Stefanescu, who lecture at The University of Central Lancashire’s Grenfell-Baines Institute of Architecture, co-designed and constructed the space with a group of residents, volunteers (from Better Start and Dads4Life), and representatives from Blackpool Council’s Library Services and Blackpool Coastal Housing.

Tina Redford, LeftCoast’s Artistic Director, said: “To be shortlisted alongside such innovative designs in the likes of London, Newcastle, and Belfast is wonderful.

“Lee and Ecaterina, as well as our Creative Producer Laura Jamieson have been the driving force behind Wash Your Words, and alongside our community volunteers in Mereside, they have created a space that is genuinely unique.

“The tenacity and commitment everyone has put into this project is commendable and we are so proud the hard work is being recognised nationally.”

Wash Your Words library and laundry room
Wash Your Words before build (Photo: Claire Griffiths)
Wash Your Words library and laundry room after
Wash Your Words day of opening (Photo: Claire Griffiths)

Wash Your Words was produced and commissioned by LeftCoast with funding  from Blackpool Coastal Housing, as well as Arts Council England and The National Lottery Community Fund. Students from Grenfell-Baines Institute of Architecture were also brought in by Ivett and Stefanescu to help on the build.

RIBA judge and founder of Hayatsu Architects, Takeshi Hayatsu, personally endorsed “the direct involvement of the architects in its construction.” While fellow judge and 2021’s MacEwen Award winner Anthony Staples, called the project: “fantastic; the community built it, you can see how it was made and how informed the end result was… it responds to community needs while having a whole lot of fun doing it.”

On behalf of himself and Stefanescu, Ivett added: “We are pleased that such a unique collaboration between community, arts, architecture, and academia is being recognised. It means so much to us to be developing this model in the context of Blackpool.”

Dave Bannister, Dads4Life community volunteer who helped on the build said: “Seeing the transformation and getting the community involved in the project has been phenomenal.”

Wash Your Words opened to the public in August 2022 and already has over 25 local families signed up to use the Laundry Room. LeftCoast has since curated a programme of free artist workshops taking place every Wednesday afternoon.

Laura Jamieson from LeftCoast added: “With support from our partners at Blackpool Coastal Housing and Blackpool Council Library Service, it has been brilliant to occupy a space where different artists can share their skills and knowledge with local residents. We have used our Workshop Wednesday programme to explore creative and fun ways people might live more sustainably by growing, making, and mending.

“We recently took a group of community members to UCLan, where Ecaterina showed them how to use industry leading technology to design and transform offcuts from the build into household objects, jewellery, and keyrings. We look forward to programming more activities like this in the future.”

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