Design Council have long been advocating for a ‘whole-place’ and inclusive approach to how we plan our housing, communities, towns and cities. That’s why being part of the inaugural Festival of Place in July 2019 was a refreshing experience. As the name suggests, the focus was on ‘place’. Not on housing, infrastructure, transport, sustainability or any other element in isolation. But on creating a forum where all of these factors, and many others, can come together to inform the thinking about how we plan and build the homes and communities of the future.

My talk at the festival was on the importance of inclusive design, something that bridges all of the different considerations that go into a ‘whole-place’ approach. An inclusively designed environment is one that’s been created by engaging a wide range of people who will live and use the place, from early stages of the process, ensuring it is aligned to everyone’s needs.

Here are 5 key themes we took from The Festival of Place:

1. A people-first approach 

Moving the planning and developing process away from consultations to conversations with real people and communities, starting early on, to find out what they really need.

2. Diversity at the core 

Having conversations with all parts of the community and allowing the needs of all demographics within one community to be catered for.

3. Health, wellbeing and the environment 

Access to green and blue space, prioritising cycling and pedestrianisation, limiting the effects of air pollution, limiting car-use where appropriate, and providing good access to public transport. 

4. Education and legislation 

Upskilling and training industry and government in inclusively designed environments and educating the public about how they can play an active role in the future of their communities.

5. Empowerment and longevity 

Building places that people want to remain in for their lifetime by involving them in how their communities are shaped and by using high quality and sustainable design that stands the test of time.

Some of these approaches were seen in the shortlist and winners of the Festival of Place ‘Pineapple Awards’, which Design Council proudly sponsored and that celebrate new and thriving urban developments that put people and place at the heart of their design. The only downside was the small proportion of entries from outside London and the Southeast. We need to be doing more to encourage people from all regions in the UK to be getting involved in schemes and initiatives like this. 

The Festival of Place was a superb platform for us all to share our stories on developing inclusive environments. We now return, with renewed vigour, to our challenge of ensuring all those working in architecture and the built environment adopt a ‘whole place’ and inclusive approach, highlighting the transformative impact it can have – now and well into the future.

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