Making places in times of emergency

Our generation is the first to fully realise the scale of the climate emergency whilst being the first to understand how we can address it. We are striving to leave the planet in a better state than we found it. 


Our aim is to make wonderful places that make the planet better: well designed, socially inclusive, culturally vibrant, greener and healthier. Toward net zero CO2e throughout its lifetime, delivering net gains in biodiversity and creating improved air quality and more open space.


How do we go about it? 


Carbon: it should be counted but perfect is the enemy of the good


We’re not slaves to the net zero target because perfect is the enemy of the good. But we need to measure it, so that we improve and we know how well we’re doing. We aim to get the total amount of CO2e as low as possible and we make sure we look beyond the buildings, including infrastructure, public realm and offsite measures too.


Resilient: we might have to make it bigger so it lasts longer


Flexible buildings and spaces: this often means making them a little bigger than they need to be, with higher ceilings that can accommodate alternative uses and column grids which do not dictate a particular use (this does not mean large spans, just sensible and regular spacing), as well as locating cores and circulation in a way that allows for change in the future. Beyond the buildings, the most successful public spaces are those that allow multiple types of activation and use. 


Verdant & wild: we must allow for nature to take over


We design for nature. Thinking not of nature as something which is added but as something which will eventually take over and has its own right to be. Our places become havens for wildlife, nature and biodiversity.   


Joined-up: people, place & planet


Joined-up with the people who will use the place, the existing and new communities. Joined-up thinking about the interconnected systems of places (such as water use, waste and recycling, food and more) and joined-up design - getting the broadest possible range of voices to contribute and collaborate. 


Encourage unforeseen possibilities: chance is what makes urban places special and memorable 


As designers we must fight our desire to control everything! Miss a corner plot to create an allotment garden, plant a tree in an unlikely place (such as in the middle of the road) or let others solve parts of the masterplan: variety and chance will make a place memorable.  


Compounded benefits: the whole is greater than the sum of the parts 


Much of our sustainable design strategies have cumulative impacts. More walking and cycling will result in less road, which will reduce the amount of material used, it will also improve air quality and increase footfall to shops and other services. Less road space will make neighbourhoods more compact which will be of benefit to street design and reduce the need for car journeys.... and on and on.

Amplify what is there already 

Most places are blessed with a rich and diverse history, context, communities etc. A part of the role of making successful places is to find this stuff and augment it/facilitate into being expressed. Whether this be through the preservation of buildings (in its most obvious form) or the planning of events, activities or programmes. Celebrating what is already there and special about a place makes the new seem less abstract and will root it in its context.   

Making places in times of emergency: we know what to do, now we must act.