What a fantastic day at the Festival of Place at Tobacco Dock (9 July).  It was great to be part of an event with the emphasis on collaboration on how together we can create places that work for everyone.  

Design Council, as sponsor of the Pineapples, presented awards at the close of the event to six worthy winners of the best urban developments in the UK where people want to live, work and play. They are:

Future Place joint winners:

Port Loop Scheme, Birmingham
Urban Splash and Places for People

Port Loop was a redundant urban island, strangled by canals, just outside Birmingham the city centre. It is one of the UK’s most significant brownfield regeneration schemes, and is being transformed into a new, family-focused waterside neighbourhood. The 43-acre site will bring 1,150 new homes to the city, along with workspaces, parks, community facilities, a swimming pool, cycle ways, 1.5km of towpaths and a water bus stop. The waterways are being replanted to encourage biodiversity, and restaurants, bars and cafes are also in the plans.


Port Loop Scheme, Birmingham

What the judges said:
“We felt the redevelopment of this inner-city, historic part of Birmingham with the juxtaposition of respecting and reimagining the industrial heritage of the canal network, repurposed a vibrant and sustainable distinctive district in our second city.”

West End Project, London
London Borough of Camden and
 LDA Design
The West End Project is a radical overhaul of traffic and public realm in central London.  It removes the one-way systems and general traffic on Tottenham Court Road and Gower Street, closes streets to create parks and new squares, widens pavements and improves road safety for cyclists and pedestrians.  The aim is to shape the public realm to tackle air quality, loneliness and climate change. The project will transform seven key spaces. At Princes Circus, a section of Shaftesbury Avenue will make way for a public square. Alfred Place will close a busy trafficked street to become the first new public park in this area in 100 years that will be a space for play and relaxation.
 Whitfield Gardens will be transformed for the local community and four well-lit new pocket parks will be created along Tottenham Court Road.


West End Project, London

What the judges said:
“We were impressed with the imagination of the scheme to put public health, wellbeing, sustainability, resilience, and time and space for reflection in the heart of London, rather than focusing on the obvious big development assets of our capital city. This is a classic example of how through thoughtful landscape design, people can be nudged and supported to change behaviours and for people to take time to enjoy their surroundings.”

Contribution to Place winner:

Waltham Forest
London Borough of Waltham Forest and Commonplace Digital

Waltham Forest is growing faster than any other London borough. To support this, £27m of ‘Mini-Holland’ funding and £800,000 (Borough Cycling Programme) from Transport for London is being invested to improve infrastructure and encourage walking and cycling. The Enjoy Waltham Forest programme focuses on several place-based development activities to ensure freedom and healthier lifestyles for all residents.


Waltham Forest

What the judges said:
“It was extraordinary to see how these multiple small projects created so much change for the public spaces of Waltham Forest. It is a testament to a big vision, great execution and wonderful consultation to ensure the community were part of the process. We all were blown away by how much was achieved: lots of things in a small way make the difference – not glamorous but effective for creating a place for the larger community. Effective community engagement was the key.”

Place in Progress joint winners:

Smith’s Dock, North Shields
Urban Splash and Places for People

The 30-acre former ship repair yard Smith’s Dock welcomed some of the world’s largest vessels between the 1850s and its closure in the 1980s. The 800-home development (including modular townhouses and apartments) will be built around the three original dock inlets and opens up the coast-to-coast cycle route. Working with the local fishing community, a memorial has been installed for lost men at sea.


Smith’s Dock, North Shields

The judges liked:
“The way it captured industrial heritage with a good fishing and boat narrative, nice riverside path, and skate park”.

London Dock
St George City and Patel Taylor

A total of £1.5bn has been poured into the ongoing transformation of Wapping’s disused dockyards. London Dock will deliver 1,800 homes when completed, and cover more than 15 acres. Aside from historic touches such as the names of spices once carved into the walkways – a nod to goods hauled off the ships – the main feature of London Dock is its openness. The dockside flows into gardens, promenades and plazas for workers to eat lunch and families to play. Pennington Warehouse is now a creative studio and an exhibition space.


London Dock, London

The judges described it as:
“Lovely scale, great historic reference, inviting, great use of landscape and water, and great connections”.

Completed Place winner:

Balham High Road, London
Wandsworth Borough Council and Metropolitan Workshop

Balham has undergone much change as young professionals and families, priced out of Clapham, moved in to the area. But the town centre and streetscape was in need of improvement.  The scheme to overhaul the public realm included transforming Hildreth Street into a vibrant market square with a cafe strip and finding a creative solution to the ‘ugly wall’, a flank wall that is now covered in mock-Victorian green faience tiling as a nod to the Northern Line.  Footfall in the centre of Balham is now up 30 per cent and vacancy rates have fallen.


Balham High Road, London

What the judges said:
“Balham High Road went beyond the brief, having significant social impact through a creative range of placemaking interventions, a catalyst for local retailers and residents, and excellent engagement and process.”

Congratulations to everyone.  This is what place making is about.

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