I recently attended the Festival of Place at Wembley, an event that gathers everyone involved in placemaking – from authors, scientists, cultural leaders, developers, investors, designers and community workers – to focus on how we can collaborate and address the biggest challenges facing placemaking. The festival, organised by The Developer, included a series of inspiring talks, walking tours and workshops.
How can the design of places support public health and reduce inequalities? Jeevun Sandher, an Economist from King's College London, discussed this question as part of his research on place and impacts on wellbeing in the context of inequality. He touched on the technological changes since the ‘80s and the impacts they had on cities following the economic geography changes. He also explored the divide within major and smaller cities and how the place directly effects people’s wellbeing. Frances Northrop, Associate Fellow at New Economics Foundation, talked about land value as a blocker to building affordable, sustainable housing and what needs to be done, touching on community-led development.
What are the key ingredients to develop places without leaving behind, including access to nature, finding local partners, create civic pride? Andrew Catcheside, Town Centre Development Manager at Enfield Council, ran through the work they are currently undertaking within Angel Edmonton Town Centre (one of the five priority centres), focusing on the challenges and opportunities they encountered during the process. Some of the projects include a “living room library”, transforming the existing library to include a wider range of activities and potentially become a hub within the future development, “Angel Yards” a meanwhile uses incorporated within the masterplan looking to convert existing garages into workspaces and to test ideas with the local community, “Fore Street murals” celebrating who is already part of the community, and “Fore Street for All!”, a High Street recovery strategy. Lucy Reid, Assistant Director at Operations National Trust Midlands & East of England, ran through some projects and aspirations focused on city identity and access to nature, beauty and history.
Julian Tollast, Head of Masterplanning and Design at Quintain, led a walking tour focused on masterplanning and design in a mixed-use development, and showed us some of the early and latest phases of the masterplan. It was interesting to hear about the challenges of providing open spaces and a public realm that could work both for big, national and international events as well as for everyday life for people living in the neighbourhood.
In the afternoon, Dinah Bornat (Founder of ZCD Architects), Kafayat Okanlawon (VAWG Project Manager at London Borough of Waltham Forest) and Farah Benis (Founder of Catcalls of London) ran a workshop focused on violence against women and girls. Kafayat explained how they are adopting a 15-minute neighbourhood approach in relation to violence against women, with the goal of providing support within a 15-minutes radius. The council is currently working with local businesses and different departments in the borough to increase awareness and provide skills on how to handle this. Their strategy is to work from the margins to the centre, as this approach means they are likely to cover everyone. We then discussed what can we do as professionals to tackle this, who and how we should include within the conversation and engage with.
A second workshop, 'Sketchy City: Creative design for urban health', led by Stephen O'Malley (Founding Director of Civic Engineers) and Kate Langford (Programme Director of Impact on Urban Health) focused on the relationship between public health and the urban environment. Within different groups we explored (and drew!) the key elements within the neighbourhood and at street level that can have a positive impact on public health.
Thanks to Lucy Marshall from CW Studio for inviting us to the festival!
The day could not have ended better, with Aberfeldy New Masterplan winning the community engagement award at The Pineapples!