NLA Review

Yesterday, The Fair went to a conference by New London Architecture (NLA) to discuss the importance of Placemaking in a city like London. The room was full of investors, property developers and place-making such as ourselves.  Throughout the morning, there were several talks from different companies to explain their involvement in Placemaking so far, and their ambitions and hopes for this movement as we see Placemaking go from strength to strength all over the world.

“The events industry are the experts in making this happen and for Placemaking to be successful, the feasibility for a space to act as both a practical space for events as well as enhancing the surrounding environment and community is key – when we talk about the event activity that happens within a space we refer to Live Architecture. This should be explored as part of the initial design & build planning process not retrospectively as the commercial longevity of a new development, building or public space relies on the people using it.”

— Nick Morgan, CEO The Fair

Polly Plunket-Cleckemian from Broadgate Estate welcomes everyone to the NLA and kick started the first speaker, Emma Cariaga from British Land. Emma spoke about her involvement as the Senior Project Director for Canada Water and how the space has developed from docks into a hub of activity from community projects to indoor gentrification and indoor Placemaking. Emma spoke about the importance of history in place making and how the place has changed dramatically since the London Docklands Development Corporation (LDDC) stepped in. This supports our thoughts that history connects all ages and appeals to a wide audience. Places must engage early with Placemaking as part as S106, this stage of planning has been considered Phase Zero. Emma also touched upon outdoor Placemaking such as community green groups, and the importance of open spaces.  There is, said Cariaga, a perception that public space is always an outdoor affair, the realm of squares and parks – but at Canada Water British Land aims to included interior public space and build on its early success at the Printworks, It is important to embrace the change in these spaces, from an old paper making factory, into a 5,000 capacity venue. ‘Placemaking is all about the ability to experiment’ with spaces such as these. The final piece of advice that Emma gave for the morning was to ‘over invest to create quality of place and long term value’

James Cooksey from Crown Estate spoke about their involvement in Regent Street and how Placemaking is at the heart of what they do, investing over £25million into public realms to concentrate on the space in-between the building to create a sense of calm around office buildings and a hub of activity o pedestrianized areas such as Heddon Street. His advice is to ‘continue to push the boundaries and keep moving forward.’ Katherine Flemming, the Operations Director for The Northbank BID discussed plans for the BID and projects such as a living wall outside Embankment Station which will enlighted the area. We were also given a preview of the plans being put forward fro Victoria Embankment Gardens which has the potential for some great events and installations.

Lucy Musgrave, the Director of Publica concentrate of streets and spaces to create a better environment. They specialise in strategies and design for public space, urban design and master planning. ‘We believe that the quality of the public realm, and the built form that frames it, is defined not only by its spatial and physical characteristics, but also by social and cultural conditions.’ (Lucy Musgrave, Publica). Placemaking is happening all over central London. Yu need to take people with you and have a multi-perspective on places. Lucy finished by encouraging the room to “to think ambitiously and develop a good concept and design”

Martyn Evans, the founder of Uncommon explained that Placemaking needs to start before anything else, not only do you need to plan the buildings and realm but you need to plan what goes inside of the building. The people, the jobs, the community, and what are you giving back to the place. One project in particular that was fascinating was the transformation of the EMI factory in Hayes, and developing it into The Old Vinyl Factory which combines a selection of exhibitions, history and relating back to the connecting with music and production of vinyl’s. They held an event to find out more information about who used to work at the Factory. They put out a feeler, to which 1,500 employees turned up to explain more about the community and the character behind the building. The history is key to their Placemaking values, and helps to animate the space. Martyn finished with the saying “People came where people are”.

Lambeth’s strategic director, neighborhoods and growth, Sue Foster said their one of their man focuses is engagement with the neighborhoods and quality of the environment. Sue mentioned it all about ‘the people, the citizens and how they thrive in a space’. She believe, ‘engagement is at the heart of what we do!’ and they experiment with what works and what doesn’t in Lambeth. Not everyone is going to get it spot on each time, however one project that was a great success was in Brixton where they listened to the communities needs of having a pedestrianized street for the younger generation to play and be young. Small things can make as much impact as the bigger changes, but it is all part of the ‘bigger Brixton masterplan!’

One of the speakers, GLA’s Paul Harper who spoke about Croydon and the regeneration of South London’s high street. The development of Boxpark Croydon by Roger Wade was a mix of private investment and public engagement. Boxpark has created the heart of Croydon, bringing communities together and providing an array of good food and a selection of live music gigs to the area. When The Fair kicked off the launch of Boxpark Croydon with NME and Eskimo Dance, there was fear of the high risk of the event taking into consideration Croydon’s culture and history. However the opening weekend, proved Placemaking at its best which animated a space and brought everyone together with limited trouble and emphasis on Croydon music culture.

The LD Design board director Selina Mason spoke passionately about engagement in public realm and the relationship between spaces. Some areas are over designed or ‘mis-designed’ to the extent that they ‘exclusive environment’ which don’t link to local community or give back to the community. She advised everyone to be strategic and have a joined up approach! Speak to your audience, and communities and find out what they want out of their spaces, and encourage them to be proud of their own environment. Selina, finished by saysin ‘first think life, then spaces, then building’ then add in the creative Placemaking and a program of events to keep the spaces animated and you’ve got yourself a recipe for success.

The conference finished with an open discussion with the panel of speakers where questions such as ‘what does success look like for placemaking’ and ‘do we have to rely on the private or public sector’ were raised. To which the answers were that is take a massively joined up approach between public and private section, along with understanding what the demographic want and need out of their spaces and developing placemaking for the people. People expect things to be happening in their spaces, so we must deliver to a high quality!

Take a look at some of the creative Placemaking events we have curated over the year