Taking pride of place29 June 2020
I recently attended the ‘Creative Placemaking’ seminar, organised by New London Architecture, along with about 150 others. But why? And who were all these people? Among the speakers were City visionaries and number crunchers. There was ‘big picture’ perspective, as well as the ‘minutiae’. It quickly became apparent at the event that there are a lot of interested parties, many people with a stake in placemaking who also share a wish to transform a place for the better. This in itself struck a chord with me. It shows that an important ingredient in placemaking is collaboration. Given the many organisations involved in the process, it’s invaluable to allow for early stakeholder cooperation to help form early strategic approaches.
Mark Davy, founder of FutureCity placemaking agency, is an advocate of early intervention in the masterplanning process, to help form a cultural vision. He referred to inverting the traditional pyramid, whereby a broad approach is applied at first, with many parties contributing and a filtering system that narrows down the numbers of parties involved over time.
This approach creates joined up thinking from the start.
Placemaking is strategic and should be given pride of place alongside masterplanning, not tacked on as an afterthought.
As a shining example of successful collaboration, during World Green Building Week, we heard about the Wild West End initiative created by The Crown Estate, Grosvenor, The Portman Estate and the Howard de Walden Estate. Wild West End aims to promote green infrastructure in London through a number of biodiversity projects. It is the first global, city-centre ecology project that has been created and driven by a partnership of this type. The initiative has gained support from the Mayor of London and the London Wildlife Trust.
A placemaking strategy should take account of user needs, therefore community engagement is key. It’s important to listen to what the residents require and build a strategy that acknowledges this.
Another thing that struck me is that ‘transforming a place for the better’ comes in different forms.
There are those who are invested in providing for communities (the people who live or work in that place). This is part of the cycle of success that can be created in tandem with financial returns. Developers, Architects and Councils themselves are all part of this. The wellbeing of a workforce in terms of location, safety and amenities is paramount for business leaders, so the provision of such has to be at the core of a strategic plan that informs masterplanning decisions.
There are those who are looking for a return on investment. CBRE have studied 20 interventions around the world to gauge the value of placemaking. This included such initiatives as the High Line in New York. Their evidence suggests that property prices can be elevated by 130% in comparison with its surrounding area. This is exactly the point that Digby Flower, CEO of Cushman & Wakefield made to me following my last placemaking article, citing the example of Bankside, which had the same effect.
There’s also a magic ingredient, which is brought about from creativity and innovation. This is instilling joy into the lives of users who experience the efforts of the placemakers.
CapCo showed us how they inspire young people in and around Covent Garden, with installations from artists and other inspirational initiatives that bring life and energy to a place. This is important in helping to create a narrative that is relevant to people and connects with them.
The Illuminated River is a fantastic idea to connect 17 London bridges from Albert Bridge to Tower Bridge with a ribbon of light installations. Clearly this will rely on major collaboration that crosses district boundaries, something that challenges conventional thinking and will probably become a signal to the world of Britain’s innovation and creativity.
Placemaking is on the map, it’s making the news and it is to be celebrated. And let us not forget that in the DNA of every placemaking initiative, there will be a narrative, with stories to be told.Read more...