Last week I attended The Festival of Place, organised by The Developer and offering a wide range of talks, workshops and discussions around how to create successful places.
The opening talk was by Dr. Patrice Derrington from Columbia University and a former Wall Street worker who reflected on how important it is that the public sector and the private sector find a balance and work closely together. She also explained her own experience developing the regeneration strategy for Lower Manhattan after 9/11. They pushed for a strong relationship between cultural, community and commercial activities to reactivate an area that was losing its population and character due to, amongst other things, poor transport infrastructures and extremely high prices.
Next, I attended a talk about how small, local associations can help communities. A common theme was how small things, like individual advice, sport lessons or community workshops, can make a huge difference in an area. Francesca Brown from Goals4Girls shared how they created strong bonds between girls in east London through football. They are boosting their confidence and helping to open new horizons and ambitions for them.
After lunch I attended a very interesting talk by UCL Professor Nick Tyler about how the shape of public space impacts people’s behaviour and how we can design to encourage social interaction. It was an interactive session where I learnt things like the most comfortable amount of people for a conversation is between three and four people, partly because of our vision and hearing range. I also learnt that linear benches on streets are completely anti-social and the ideal shape for having a conversation should be more like a semi-circle. If we want to encourage social interaction, we have to think about these small things.
Even though each talk was different and had a different approach, I think they all agreed that what makes a place successful is people – it is very important not to forget who we are designing, developing or delivering for.