Bath Voice News: local democracy reporter John Wimperis interviews the man behind the colosseum style proposals for the new rugby stadium but the plans have been ‘politely declined’ by the club – but believes it’s up to Bathonians to campaign for ‘an idealistic vision’ instead of ‘wrecking the Rec’

The architects behind an alternative design for Bath’s new rugby stadium — which has captured the popular imagination — hope local people might push for the design.

Bath Rugby’s long-held ambition to develop a rugby stadium at the Rec has been progressing recently, with a consultation on their designs carried out earlier this year.

But two Bath architects have caused a stir with a counter-design in classical style. Mark Wilson Jones and Jakub Ryng of Apollodorus Architecture reimagined the new stadium as a oval Roman colosseum, together with a classical rebuild of the leisure centre.

Mr Wilson Jones said: “This is an idealistic vision put forward really just to shake things up and get people to think in those kinds of ways.”

He added: “I’m interested in the application of common sense and a bit of traditional values.”

The design quickly went viral online for its Roman-style spectacle — with TV presenter Andrew Neil taking to Twitter to call the colosseum “stunning” — but Mr Wilson Jones said the real core of the project is all about the planning and urban aspect.

Mr Wilson Jones and Mr Ryng’s design would create a frontage along the river which they believe would be attractive for businesses such as bars, restaurants, and hotels.

The plans would also see the leisure centre also redeveloped along with the rugby pitch. Mr Wilson Jones said: “You have got this problem location with the leisure centre centre and if you build a stadium you are just going to repeat that same boundary.”

Under their plans, the leisure centre would be divided into two blocks, with more pedestrian connections, and an open square in front of the Pavilion, which would be kept.  The buildings would continue the classical style of the colosseum stadium, complete with a Roman lighthouse-styled tower.

Mr Wilson Jones added: “Things like the tower are a bit of a fantasy, but its just pointing out what we can do.”

Mr Ryng studied architecture at the University of Bath, where Mr Wilson Jones has been a lecturer in the subject for 23 years, and the pair’s architectural firm Apollodorus Architecture specialises in classical architecture.

Mr Wilson Jones said their classical design was partially because it was their expertise, and partially because they knew it would attract attention.

He said: “We did it full on classical […] If it was real life we would not have been as full on as that.”

He added that there was a tradition of “stripped-down” classical, which keeps to classical principles while scaling back on ornamentation.

“I’m not against modern contemporary stuff,” Mr Wilson Jones added, citing the Holburne Museum’s modern extension as a good example.

But he said it worked best as a small scale addition, comparing it to a well dressed person wearing “zany socks.”

He said: “Bath has got so few quality modern projects. It’s such a beautiful city; it’s shocking really.”

The architects reached out to Bath Rugby with their plans, but Mr Wilson Jones said they politely declined and chose to continue with their current designs.

But he is hoping that, if the city is behind the new design, a grassroots group of people could form to promote it.

Mr Wilson Jones said: “If it resonates enough with people I suppose they have got to do something about it.”

But he added: “Its something that has to come from local people.”

Bath Voice and Local Democracy Reporters

The journalists are funded by the BBC as part of its latest Charter commitment, but are employed by regional news organisations. A total of 165 reporters are allocated to news organisations in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland including Bath Voice. These organisations range from television and radio stations to online media companies and established regional newspaper groups. Local Democracy Reporters cover top-tier local authorities, second-tier local authorities and other public service organisations.

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