As you stroll through Chester how often do you look up?

It may sound like a strange question but allow me to explain. Our towns and cities are becoming homogeneous carbon copies of one another. There’s a Specsavers alongside a Vodafone shop. Costa Coffee and WH Smith sit side by side. A few doors down you’ll find McDonalds and maybe Primark. I could go on but you get the picture.

The corporate branding of these high street giants is desensitising the real, original architecture that surrounds us. The bright rectangular retail banners draw our eyes away from what remains of the city’s unique buildings, urban landscape and architecture. It glosses over the details.

Even when we chance upon something unique and original, we seem to lose focus. Who hasn’t taken a photograph of the Cathedral? Did you manage to squeeze every intricate inch of the cathedral into one landscape shot? Job done and you move on to the next historical landmark. Elaborate stone carvings and snarling gargoyles go unnoticed, hand-crafted wrought iron gates unloved. There’s no time for detail.

We want to change the way we view our city. In conjunction with the Chester Civic Trust, Civic Voice, the RIBA and the Cheshire Society of Architects, we’re launching a new campaign entitled ‘archiCHESTER’. We want people to seek and capture these hidden gems in artistic and creative ways.

The first stage is a ‘Taught Workshop’ hosted by an architect and artist from unit3. After the opening tutorial, the group will take to the streets of Chester to capture architectural details or ‘artefacts’ – by camera, phone, pencil and pen or by collecting physical samples. Each participant will then compose their ‘artefacts’ into a small artwork under the guidance of unit3. These pieces will then form the basis of a large-scale installation. We also want participants to work on their ideas at home and create a large piece using the skills and techniques learned during the workshop. These will then form part of stage two, an open public interactive archiCHESTER exhibition on Northgate Street on the 22/06/2013.

We hope this campaign will encourage people to forget the popular ‘touristy’ images of Chester and, instead, seek out the unseen details that transcend corporate banality.

archiCHESTER

For more details about this event, you can visit the archiCHESTER HQ at Handel’s Court Gallery (above Joseph Benjamin’s on Northgate Street) or visit the RIBA Love Architecture Festival Website (http://www.lovearchitecture.org/event.html?event=434)